Jacob Zuma lays gauntlet, tells ConCourt he won’t mitigate before he is sentenced

FILE - In this file photo dated Tuesday July 16, 2019, former South African president Jacob Zuma looks on at the state commission probing allegations of corruption in government, in Johannesburg. South African media say the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday Nov. 29, 2019, has dismissed Zuma’s attempt to appeal a ruling that cleared the way for him to be prosecuted for corruption.(AP Photo/FILE)

DURBAN – In a letter sent close to the deadline for him to suggest a suitable sentence, former president Jacob Zuma has told the Constitutional Court that he will not do so.

In a 21-page letter to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, Zuma said the attempt to give him a chance to do so was meant “to sanitise” an unfair process the court undertook even though it knew that it was illegal.

The letter was accompanied by a one-sentence letter from his attorney of records, Eric Mabuza, affirming that they had not been instructed to take part in the process.

In his letter Zuma was scathing, repeating the allegation that the court was helping state capture commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, to nail him by hook or crook.

“At the outset, I must state that I did not participate in the proceedings before the Constitutional Court and view the directives as nothing but a stratagem to clothe its decision with some legitimacy. Further, in directing me to depose to an affidavit, the chairperson of the commission, as the applicant, and some politically interested groups styled as amicus curie are given the right of rebuttal. That is in my view not a fair procedure in circumstances where my rights under sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Constitution are implicated.

“I am resigned to being a prisoner of the Constitutional Court because it is clear to me that the Constitutional Court considers the Zondo Commission to be central to our national life and the search for the national truth on the state of governance during my presidency. It has also become clear to me that even though the Constitutional Court has no jurisdiction Deputy Chief Justice Zondo was determined to place the matter before judges who serve as his subordinates in order to obtain the order he wants,” he told the apex court in his letter.

He stressed that by hearing the application from the commission, the court had ignored a material fact that there was a pending application in a lower court for Zondo to recuse himself.

“This is despite the fact that by doing so, he ignores the review I have launched regarding his refusal to recuse himself. The directions took me by surprise in their breadth and scope. I understand them to be your attempt at giving me a right to hearing only on the question of sanction in the alleged theoretical or hypothetical basis that I am found guilty of contempt of court. That is of significant concern to me, firstly because the court would have known that I had decided not to participate in the proceedings of the court.

“I did not ask for this right to hearing, and since it is an invention of the chief justice I would have expected the chief justice to have been concerned about the motive of seeking my participation in mitigating by speculating about a decision concealed from me,” Zuma said in part of his letter to the chief justice.