Former president Jacob Zuma will have to see out the remainder of his contempt charge, the Constitutional Court ruled on Friday.
Jacob Zuma returns to ConCourt
The full-benched Constitutional Court, after reserving its judgment in July 2021, delivered its ruling on the former president’s bid to have his conviction deemed erroneous and, ultimately, null and void.
Remember, the 79-year-old was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his repeated failure to adhere to a number of court orders that essentially forced him to reappear at the State Capture Inquiry.
The ConCourt had, in awarding the inquiry its right to compel the former president to return to the hot seat, ruled that upon Zuma’s reappearance, the former head of state would have to either respond to questions on what he knew about alleged graft in his administration or, in the event that he refused, would be obliged to indicate why a particular question was incriminating.
Zuma’s retort to this was a full-scale attack on the integrity of the judiciary, where he categorically accused members of the bench of colluding with dark political forces in assassinating his character.
“The core principles about separation of powers between the judiciary, legislature and the executive are being gradually weakened. Justice Dhaya Pillay has previously insulted me by insinuating in her judgment that I am ‘…a wedge driver with a poisonous tongue.’ It is the sam judge that issued a warrant of arrest against me as she refused to accept a medical report from the Surgeon General of the South African National Defence Force,” the former president scathingly wrote in March 2021.
Legal advocate for the State Capture Inquiry, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, in his submission on the arrest order that was granted in June 2021, reminded the apex court about the sheer unrelenting disregard Zuma had for the rule of law.
“There is no one who is entitled to say that the judges have ‘abandoned their green robes’. No one is entitled to say that some judges have received money from Mr Ramaphosa. No one is entitled to say that the Constitutional Court has become a threat to democracy. No one is entitled to say that the judgment of the Constitutional Court mimics the posture that has been adopted by the commission, which is designed to make unfair judgments against Mr Zuma,” he said.
Zuma rescission application dismissed
Months later, after the ashes from the inferno that engulfed most parts of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng had dissipated, the ConCourt returned to deliver its final judgment on Zuma’s rescission application.
Justice Sisi Khampepe, after reminding the court of Zuma’s culpability, moved to dismiss his application.
“Mr Zuma has not met the statutory requirements of a rescission. Rule 42 stipulates that a court may rescind or vary an order or judgment erroneously sought or erroneously granted in the absence of any part affected thereby. It is trite that an applicant who invokes this rule must show that both grounds exist. Far from persuaded by Mr Zuma’s submissions, the majority finds that although Mr Zuma’s physical absence cannot be disputed, the words granted in the absence of any party affected as they appear in rule 42 exist to protect litigants whose presence was precluded, not those whose absence was elected,” the court ruled.
Justice Khampepe reminded the court that Zuma “knew of the relief the commission sought, despite this, he elected not to participate.”
Following this ruling, the former president will have no choice but to see his jail sentence through. Although, Zuma was placed on medical parole under suspicious circumstances, to say the least.
Earlier this month, the former president was granted leniency by the department of correctional services after it was claimed that he was not fit to serve his bid at the Estcourt prison facility.
The medical parole matter will be heard in court soon. This is after the Democratic Alliance, along with AfriForum and the Helen Suzman Foundation filed urgent applications to have the parole decision reviewed and set aside.