The Constitutional Court has found former president Jacob Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months imprisonment.
Justice Sisi Khampepe read out the judgment on Tuesday, which found that Zuma was fully aware of the consequences of his actions and willfully defied the court’s order to appear before the Zondo Commission.
“The majority holds that a coercive order which uses the threat of imprisonment to ensure compliance will be both futile and inappropriate,” Khampepe said.
She said there was “no sound basis” for Zuma to claim that he was being unfairly treated.
“The majority finds itself with no choice but to find that this kind of incalcitrance cannot be tolerated,” Khampepe read.
She pointed out that Zuma’s case was exceptional because of his position as a former president as well as his criticism of the judiciary.
The ConCourt justices strongly condemned Zuma’s “outlandish statements” and found that the only reasonable sentence was an unsuspended sentence of 15 months imprisonment.
The ConCourt ruled that Zuma must hand himself over to police at either Nkandla police station or Johannesburg Central within 5 calendar days to commence serving his sentence.
Meanwhile, Zuma’s supporters secured his Nkandla home ahead of Tuesday’s judgment. The MKMVA (Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association) battalion that has been stationed outside the rural home since late March was in high spirits.
They were heard singing Struggle songs from the tent they use as their base. Some of them were seen outside parading.
Zuma’s most vocal son, Edward Zuma, did not say anything about the pending sentencing.
Zuma’s run-in with the court started in December last year when the Zondo Commission, which is probing allegations of corruption during his nine-year rule, approached the court to ask it to compel him to appear and answer all questions posed to him.
The order was granted but Zuma decided to defy the court, alleging that the commission and the court were victimising him through exceptional and harsh treatment and that both institutions were politicising the law to his detriment.
The secretary of the commission, Professor Itumeleng Mosala, then asked the court to penalise him with contempt of court. On the same day, Zuma issued another long statement and said that he had taken a political position not to take part in the matter because the judiciary was engaged in political battles against him.
“It is no longer my attendance that they seek, but they have joined the political campaign to destroy me. It also reveals that this was always the commission’s mandate,” Zuma said at the time.
He said that Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo who chairs the commission was “exploiting his proximity to the Constitutional Court to protect and advance his interests as chairperson of the commission”.
When the matter was heard on March 25 this year, advocate Tembeka Ngcukayitobi, acting on behalf of the commission, asked the court to hand down a two-year sentence, arguing that Zuma had made serious allegations against the judiciary without any evidence to back them up.
“Basically he’s using the language of daring the court, ‘I’m not afraid to go to prison. Even prior to coming to the court in December 2020, the commission had tried to use its coercive powers. I know that there is criticism in the judgement, but he was given leeway that would not ordinarily be given to witnesses. But the fact is the coercive powers were tried, they didn’t work. The is no scope for coercive powers, the only scope that remains now is imprisonment. Utterances that Mr Zuma has made are malicious utterances. He is also acting without any facts – Mr Zuma completely disregards the evidence,” Ngcukayitobi told the court in March when arguing why Zuma should be jailed.