Court rules a suspended sentence would serve no purpose. Zuma has five days to present himself to the police to begin his 15-month jail term.
In an unprecedented judgment, the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) on Tuesday found former president Jacob Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months imprisonment.
Zuma now has five days to either present himself to the police in his home town of Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal or in Johannesburg for him to start serving his jail term.
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Should he fail to do so, the apex court ordered that the South African Police Service (SAPS) should in three days arrest the former statesman – a first for a former president since South Africa became a democracy and even before then.
Delivering the scathing majority judgment, Justice Sisi Khampepe said two judgments were penned by the ConCourt, a majority and a dissenting judgment.
She said the majority of the court’s justices agreed there could be no doubt Zuma was in contempt of court and they needed to send a strong message about respecting court orders.
The ConCourt case relates to an urgent application brought by the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture in March after Zuma refused to obey previous orders to appear before it and answer non-incriminating questions.
When the ConCourt asked Zuma to provide mitigating factors in the case, he addressed a 21-page letter to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng attacking the judiciary.
Here are the key quotes from Justice Khampepe’s ruling:
“The issues at the heart of this matter are irrefutably constitutional issues… The Constitutional Court holds that this matter is so evidently extraordinary that a departure from ordinary procedures is warranted and is in the interests of justice.
“Never before has the authority and legitimacy of the Constitutional Court been subjected to the kinds of attacks that Mr Zuma has elected to launch against it and its members. Never before has the judicial process been so threatened.”
“The vigour with which Mr Zuma is peddling his disdain of the Constitutional Court and the judicial process carries the risk that he will inspire others to similarly defy court orders.”
“The constitutional right of access to courts would be rendered meaningless unless orders are capable of being enforced by those in whose favour they’re made. It is also noteworthy that contempt of court is not an issue between the parties, but it’s an issue between the court and the contemptuous party.”
“The majority holds that a coercive order which uses the threat of imprisonment for compliance would be both futile and inappropriate in these circumstances.
“Of course, society holds an interest in Mr Zuma testifying before the commission given that it was under his presidency that the alleged corruption and malfeasance under investigation by the commission took place.”
“The Constitutional Court cannot be so naive as to hope for his compliance with court orders. Mr Zuma has repeatedly reiterated that he would rather be in prison than cooperate with the commission or comply with court orders.
“It defies logic to believe that a suspended sentence which affords Mr Zuma one final opportunity to submit to the authority of the commission would have any effect either than to prolong his defiance.”
“Although Mr Zuma is no longer president, his conduct flies in the face of the obligation he bore as president and it is also not insignificant that Mr Zuma’s contemptuous conducts relate to his duty to account for the time that he was in office. It’s inextricably linked to his constitutional role as an office-bearer.”
“Unfortunately but not entirely unexpected, Mr Zuma once again squandered an opportunity to respect this country’s legal processes, which guarantees all citizens fairness and equality before the law.
“Instead of furnishing the court with mitigating factors, he again aired his views through inflammatory statements intended to undermine the authority of the Constitutional Court and to portray himself as a victim. All of this, besides being scandalous, is totally irrelevant to the question of sanction upon which he was directed to make submissions.”
“The Constitutional Court went to great lengths to safeguard Mr Zuma’s rights. Consequently, there is simply no sound nor logical basis on which Mr Zuma can claim to be treated unfairly or victimised.
“His attempts to evoke public sympathy through unfounded allegations fly in the face of reason and are an insult to the constitutional dispensation for which so many men and women fought and lost their lives.”
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