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Former president Zuma says he will go to jail as a conscientious objector

Aron Hyman Reporter
Fformer president Jacob Zuma
Fformer president Jacob Zuma
Image: Veli Nhlapo

In an ominous statement sent out late on Thursday night, former president Jacob Zuma left a Sword of Damocles hanging over the country when he spoke of a revolution by “ordinary people like me”.

His 2,000 word statement pre-empted a judgment reserved by the Constitutional Court after it  heard submissions from state capture inquiry counsel Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC on Thursday when he called for Zuma to be jailed for ignoring a ConCourt ruling which ordered him to appear before the inquiry chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.

Zuma did not participate in the hearing on Thursday.

In his lengthy statement, he attacked the judiciary as a whole and specifically singled out Zondo and judge Dhaya Pillay, who he accused of bias.

Pillay had issued a warrant for Zuma when he failed to appear in the Pietermaritzburg High Court in February last year for his corruption trial. Zuma’s legal team presented a sick note from a military hospital. Pillay dismissed it due to discrepancies, such as the alteration of dates on the note.

On March 25 2021, the Constitutional Court heard an application by the state capture commission for former president Jacob Zuma to be jailed for two years if he is found guilty of contempt of court. Zuma was given until March 8 to file his replying affidavit, but he hasn't made any submissions.

“Ordinarily and if I had faith that a South African court would consider my submissions, I would present them to the Constitutional Court. However, my experience is that many SA judges, including those of the Constitutional Court, can no longer bring an open mind to cases involving me as they have done in awarding legal costs against me in a case I had not participated in,” Zuma said.

“I believe history will absolve me. I know I have dedicated my life to the cause of advancing the interests of my people. I will serve the term of imprisonment imposed by the Constitutional Court [judgment was reserved in the case so this outcome is yet to be determined by the apex court] that has already become the focus point of the defend our democracy campaign. This campaign is dangerous to our democracy and when its true fruits are seen in time, I will be vindicated,” read an extract from his statement.

“All I said is that I am not afraid of going to jail, as I was not under the apartheid system. However, I will not subject myself to an oppressive and unjust court system. They can put my physical body behind prison doors, However, my spirit is free to speak against the injustice of the imprisonment,” he said.

“Our people – ordinary people – will gain their voice and when they do, not even the Constitutional Court will not be spared the rigorous questions,” said Zuma.