THE Constitutional Court’s scathing judgment condemning former president Jacob Zuma to 15 months’ imprisonment for contempt of court is unlikely to lead to him losing his presidential perks.
Speaking at the Defend Our Democracy campaign’s briefing following the Concourt’s judgment yesterday, advocate Mojanku Gumbi, Zuma’s predecessor Thabo Mbeki’s former special adviser, said section 89 of the Constitution sets out the grounds for forfeiting the benefits.
In terms of the Constitution, a president can lose benefits if removed through a resolution of the National Assembly adopted with a supporting vote of at least two-thirds of its members only on the grounds of a serious violation of the Constitution or the law and serious misconduct.
If removed in this manner from office, a person may not receive any benefits and may not serve in any public office.
Freedom Under Law executive officer Nicole Fritz said she did not think Zuma’s imprisonment would have any direct implication for his continued enjoyment of presidential privileges.
Acting Deputy Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe delivered the Concourt’s majority judgment and sentenced Zuma to a year and three months’ imprisonment for failing comply with the court’s unanimous order in January to obey all summonses and directives lawfully issued by the Commission.
Zuma was ordered to hand himself to the Nkandla or Johannesburg Central police stations within five days for their station commanders to deliver him to a correctional centre to immediately deliver him to a correctional centre.
According to the judgment, should Zuma not present himself to either of the two police stations, Police Minister Bheki Cele and national Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole have been ordered to take all steps necessary and permissible in law to ensure that the former ANC leader is committed to a correctional centre within three calendar days afterwards.
Justice Khampepe said the matter was about an egregious threat posed to the Constitution’s authority, the integrity of the judicial process and the apex court’s dignity.
She said the exceptional feature that justified the punitive sanction that she impose on Zuma was the unique and special political position he still enjoys as former president.
”He has a great deal of power to incite others to similarly defy court orders because his actions and any consequences, or lack thereof, are being closely observed by the public. If his conduct is met with impunity, he will do significant damage to the rule of law,” Justice Khampepe said.
The SACP’s second deputy general secretary Che Matlhako said the important lesson to be derived from the judgment was that no one was above the law.
Stefanie Fick of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse described the judgment as a win for accountability and a good day for South Africa.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said the judgment was a landmark ruling and important for the rule of law in the country.
LOYISO SIDIMBA firstname.lastname@example.org
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