Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. (Photo: Sebabatso Mosamo / Sunday Times) | Former President Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)
Asked to submit an affidavit on his potential conviction for violating a Constitutional Court order, former President Jacob Zuma sent a letter to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng repeating allegations of judicial bias and suggesting that his potential imprisonment could lead to a challenge to the powers of justice.
During the Constitutional Court’s investigation into the state capture application hold Jacob Zuma in contempt of court from January 2021 judgment, who said the former president was due to appear before Associate Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and answer questions, several judges questioned the commission’s call for Zuma to be jailed for two years.
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Zuma has not participated in any of the legal proceedings initiated by Zondo’s commission since he left his hearings in November 2019, when Zondo denied Zuma’s recusal request.
During a Constitutional Court hearing in March 2021 on the commission’s request to send Zuma to prison, Judge Mbuyiseli Madlanga asked Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, representing the commission, for examples of courts sentencing individuals to prison. for contempt even though they had not pleaded their case.
Madlanga suggested the court could seek Zuma’s opinion on his punishment, if found in contempt, which Ngcukaitobi rejected.
Last week, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who has not sat on recent Zuma cases but issues all directives from the Constitutional Court, wrote to the former president asking him to file an affidavit on a sanction. appropriate if the court finds him in contempt of his order to appear. before the commission.
Zuma responded with a letter, rather than an affidavit, on Wednesday April 14, saying he did not want to validate “a sham and an attempt to clean up the seriousness of the repressive way in which the court has handled my problems.” .
Letter to the Chief Justice – 04.14.2021
The former president said the Constitutional Court was determined to send him to prison. He repeated the arguments he had advanced on the sidelines of the state capture investigation, where his participation was extremely limited, and the Constitutional Court hearings, in which he did not participate.
Zuma’s letter to Mogoeng addressed his legal challenges on several fronts. He criticized the State Capture Commission for legality, made general statements about judicial bias, questioned the details of the Constitutional Court’s case against him, and challenged the court to jail him and make him an example of alleged judicial overrun.
While claiming that Mogoeng’s directive was intended to justify dropping a prison sentence, Zuma said he only had three days to respond (he had three working days and the weekend) and would had to be given the opportunity to respond to the merits of the contempt case, which he had previously refused to do in court.
“If the Court is of the opinion, as it does, that it can impose a penalty of imprisonment without hearing the accused, I always leave the matter in its competent hands,” he said.
He questioned the somewhat controversial decision of the Constitutional Court to grant the state capture investigation direct access to court when it asked to force Zuma to testify, which he said the convinced the court did so because of the “political nature” of the commission, saying it was “established to destroy the work I did when I served my country as president”.
If Zuma had participated and discussed the direct access point to the Constitutional Court, his claims might have stood a chance. Instead, he repeatedly refused to participate, citing a “conscientious objection”.
Citing the lofty ideals of the Constitution, his letter criticized the Supreme Court for removing its right to remain silent under Article 35 (3) (h) of the Constitution. This article reads: “Every accused has the right to a fair trial, which includes the right… to be presumed innocent, to remain silent and not to testify during the proceedings.”
But the Constitutional Court ruling clearly upheld Zuma’s right not to incriminate himself and said the section of the constitution he cites only concerns those arrested or accused, not witnesses.
Zuma said of the ideals of the Supreme Court: “The Constitutional Court would represent freedom for all, and with it I thought we would be safe from the unjust and oppressive political narratives that have regularly found credibility in the courts of law. ‘oppression. It’s no secret that the dominant narratives come from the upper and wealthy classes in our society. “
The day before Zuma’s letter, the Supreme Court of Appeal confirmed a ruling that Zuma should reimburse at least R16 million the state had spent on his personal legal fees. During his tenure as president, Zuma repeatedly delayed prosecutions against him by using the state budget to defend, obstruct and appeal to the courts.
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“In general, I believe, after examining the way in which the courts have dealt with cases involving my constitutional rights, I have come to the conclusion that there is an inexplicable judicial antipathy towards me,” he said. Zuma said.
“I do not accept that I have committed contempt of court when I have decided not to participate in the proceedings of the Commission in circumstances where my rights would be violated. It is clear to all to see that nothing can persuade the Constitutional Court not to imprison me.
While Zuma launched the state capture investigation in January 2018, with Zondo at the helm, he repeatedly argued that his foundations were illegal. Former ombudsperson Thuli Madonsela recommended that Mogoeng, rather than the president, who was involved in her Capture state report, appoint an investigative chairman. Zuma took the case to court and lost. He appealed, but Cyril Ramaphosa withdrew the appeal when he became president.
While Zuma claims that Zondo and the judiciary are biased against him, the reality seems to be the opposite. His comments about the ‘wealthy classes’ getting a fairer shake ring true, but there is no doubt, at least with regard to legal costs, that many of South Africa’s top lawyers have made handsome incomes from the cases. by Zuma.
Although Zuma was not involved in any of the State Capture Inquiry’s Constitutional Court cases, it is clear, as Madlanga’s comment and Mogoeng’s directive suggest, the judges were careful not to send the former president directly in prison, despite his obvious failure to adhere to the court order, without hearing his point of view.
Zuma claimed he was being treated unfairly, but the Constitutional Court criticized Zondo for not taking a harsher line on the former president, suggesting he was treated unequally compared to a average citizen – treated with children’s gloves because of his status.
Zuma is playing a political game with a judicial process. He recently questioned the foundations of constitutional democracy in South Africa, suggesting that the judiciary should not exercise any control over the executive.
In his letter on Wednesday, Zuma suggested that his potential conviction could advance the fight to diminish the judiciary, the only arm of the South African state that has called him to account during his ruinous reign, while being careful not to step on other levels’ toes. .
Zuma’s letter read: “As stated above, I am ready to become a prisoner of the Constitutional Court and as I cannot appeal or review what I consider to be a flagrant irregularity, my imprisonment would become the ground on which the future struggles for a judicial system itself as a servant of the Constitution and of the people rather than as an instrument to advance dominant political discourses, ”he said.
The former president appears to be trying to push Constitutional Court judges into a corner, suggesting his conviction will lead to social and political unrest. It is a crisis on Zuma’s part as he slanders the judiciary, which will have no other choice but to judge him in absentia.
What happens next? Sentencing someone directly to jail on a civil contempt case seems unprecedented, so Zuma could avoid a direct jail sentence, although his response in court does him no favor.
If Zuma is sent to prison, will his threats of social unrest come true? The former president appears to have at least some support from a coalition of fellow corruption suspects, from Ace Magashule to Julius Malema and their allies and supporters.
There is no indication, however, that any group has or is able to mobilize a mass movement behind Zuma’s current cause. DM
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This notice was published: 2021-04-14 22:04:57