State capture commission to ask ConCourt to impose a jail term on Jacob Zuma

Former president Jacob Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma.

The commission of inquiry into state capture will head back to the Constitutional Court to make an application that former president Jacob Zuma be sent to jail for his refusal to appear before it.

In a strongly worded statement, chairperson of the commission deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo said Zuma’s decision not to appear before the inquiry was a sign of open defiance.

Zuma was scheduled to appear before the Zondo commission from Monday till Friday.

Before his appearance, the commission obtained an order last month from the Constitutional Court compelling Zuma to present himself before it and be questioned about the evidence that has implicated him over the past five years.

On Monday, Zuma’s lawyers released a statement saying he would not be coming to the commission, a decision he had already communicated in a personal statement on February 1.

“He has no valid and sound reason not to appear before the commission. The commission has taken note that in this type of situation the law makes provision that it may institute what is called contempt of court proceedings…The commission will make an application to the Constitutional Court which made the order that Mr Zuma has defied and seek an order that Mr Zuma is guilty of contempt of court, and if the Constitutional Court reaches that conclusion, then it is in its discretion what to do.

“One of the things it can do is to impose a term of imprisonment on Mr Zuma, another will be for it to impose a fine. The commission will approach the Constitutional Court and ask it to impose a term of imprisonment on Mr Zuma if it finds that he is guilty of contempt of court. It will be up to the court what it considers appropriate,” Zondo said.

Zondo said all citizens of the country were subject to the same laws, irrespective of their position in society and the government.

He said of the 250 witnesses he had seen over the past three years, only Zuma asked him to recuse himself.

 “I have just completed 24 years of service on the bench, many litigants have appeared before me, literally thousands…Only Mr Zuma out of all of these has ever asked me to recuse myself,” Zondo said.

Zondo said if Zuma were to be allowed to do continue with his conduct, it will be set a bad precedent.

“This is very serious. If it is allowed to prevail, there will be lawlessness and chaos. There may be other people who will decide to follow his example when they are served with summons and decide they can ignore them.

“If the message that is sent out is that people can ignore or disregard summons and orders of courts and that they can defy those with impunity, there will be very little that will be left of our democracy,” Zondo said.

In his earlier statement, Zuma said he was not prepared to come to the commission as he is taking on review Zondo’s refusal to recuse himself in November 2020. His lawyers also said the summons issued to him was irregular and not in compliance with the Constitutional Court order of last month.

These were dismissed by Zondo as baseless.