Zuma avoids jail as Constitutional Court agrees to hear his application





The Constitutional Court has backtracked on its decision that former president Jacob Zuma must go to jail on Sunday.

After an eventful few days that saw crowds of people descending on Nkandla and analysts calling for Zuma to respect the law, the highest court in the land agreed to hear Zuma’s application later in July.

This came after he had filed applications in the High Court and the Constitutional Court to challenge the decision to jail him for 15 months for contempt of court.

In the notice, the Constitutional Court stated: “Take notice that the above-mentioned applicant intends applying, in terms of section 167(3)(b) and/or section 167(6)(a) of the Constitution on a date and time to be determined by the Registrar of the honourable court or as directed by the acting Chief Justice in terms of the rules of the Constitutional Court, for an order in the following terms: That paragraph 3 of the order of this honourable court delivered on June 29, 2021, in terms of which the applicant was found guilty of the crimen injuria contempt of court for not complying with its orders in the secretary of the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector including organs of state v Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, is hereby rescinded in terms of rule 42 of the uniform rules of court, read with rule 29 of the rules of the constitutional court.”

The court also said the acting chief justice would issue directions in this regard.

“Take further that absent such directions, you are required to indicate by no later than 9 July 2021, any intention to oppose this application and to deliver, by no later than 30 July 2021, any answering affidavit(s),” reads the notice from the Constitutional Court.

Finding an unexpected legal loophole, former president Jacob Zuma on Friday threw another legal dice, asking the Constitutional Court to review its own decision to sentence him to 15 months in prison.

In legal papers filed in court, Zuma cited a range of factors, including that he was sentenced without a trial.

Moreover, he alleged that the court panel that sentenced him included Judge Dhaya Pillay, formally with the Pietermaritzburg High Court, stressing that her presence contaminated the proceedings as Pillay had proven to be his adversary that an officer of the law.

The Concourt application is 34 pages long and it also seeks to halt his pending arrest for contempt of court up until the court has heard his appeal without “emotions”.

He said he was advised that “before I walk through the prison doors to serve my sentence as the first direct prisoner of the Constitutional Court under our constitutional democracy, it will not be futile to make one last attempt to invite the Constitutional Court to relook its decision”.

Also cited as a factor by Zuma was that at 79, he was old and required regular and intense therapy to keep going and sending him to jail could see him suffering.

“Imprisonment will not serve any constitutional value but may be a political statement of exemplary punishment which does nothing to affirm the court as the supreme custodian of our constitutional rights. As already indicated by the premature celebrations of newfound upholders of the rule of law, it may also satisfy the vengeful appetites of my political foes,” he argues in the papers.

Zuma said the reason why he decided not to file opposing papers when presented with an opportunity to do so was because he had no money as his finances were dented when he left his position as the country’s president in February 2018.

“From the time I left the office of the president, I have faced a tremendous amount of financial pressure. The Nkandla judgment of the Constitutional Court to all other court cases demanded extreme financial resources from me. State funding for my criminal trial which the State had agreed to pay was stopped and the relevant agreements set aside in court judgments that the courts described my litigation as one on a ’(l)uxurious scale’.”

He stressed that he elected not to participate in the urgent court case brought by the Zondo Commission against him because he trusted the court and “its ability to separate the wheat from the chaff” and he was wrongly advised.

“Other than the cost orders in this judgment, I face punitive cost orders in approximately twelve judgments amounting to more than R20 million. As a consequence of the financial hardships that I was facing, I decided that I would only litigate matters where it was absolutely necessary for me to do so.

“I did not have the extravagant funds to engage lawyers to commit fully to the urgent applications of the Commission, especially those which I honestly, but clearly mistakenly, believed to be wholly unmeritorious.”

Meanwhile, Zuma’s court application coincided with escalating tensions in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, where more ANC members supporting him trickled to his home to fortify and prevent his possible arrest.

In the process, the supporters have violated Covid-19 regulations and threatened the authority of the state. Yesterday some of the supporters started showing their force and determination by firing gunshots in the air.

This was a repeat of what happened on Thursday outside Zuma’s home.

Sensing that the situation was getting out of control, ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte announced that this weekend’s three-day national executive committee (NEC) meeting had been postponed so that they could send senior leaders to manage the deteriorating situation.

The delegation of NEC members included Jeff Radebe, Fikile Mbalula, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Thabang Makwetla, Tony Yengeni, Lindiwe Sisulu, Zweli Mkhize, Thoko Didiza, Bheki Cele and Ayanda Dlodlo, among others, and they would work with the KZN ANC leadership led by Sihle Zikalala, the provincial chairperson.

“In arriving at this decision, the national officials were mindful of the situation developing in KwaZulu-Natal and the need for the ANC to give clear and principled leadership to ensure the maintenance of the rule of law and to avoid any violence, injury, or loss of life. NEC members will be deployed to KZN and will work with the provincial leadership in this regard,” the party said yesterday.

Outside Nkandla on Friday, MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus said their structure would not allow Zuma to be arrested.

To thwart the arrest, he said the MK vets guarding Zuma’s home would have to form a “human shield” and prevent anyone from getting into Nkandla to frogmarch Zuma.