Johannesburg – In what was a historic week for South Africa, the Constitutional Court of the country handed down a damning judgment to the former president, Jacob Zuma.
Earlier this week, on Tuesday, Zuma was found guilty of being in contempt of court, for refusing to make an appearance at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, also known as the State Capture Commission, or the Zondo Commission.
Zuma who was the state president for over 10 years is believed to have masterminded the looting of billions of rand in the state through lucrative contracts awarded to his close associates and powerful Gupta family.
Justice Sisi Khampepe handed down the judgment on Tuesday morning.
Khampepe said during the judgment, “It was the applicant case that Mr Zuma is guilty of the crime of contempt of court. His non-compliance with a court order was undeniable because he failed to appear and give evidence before the commission. Mr Zuma did not oppose this application, nor did he file any submissions.”
“Never before has the authority and the legitimacy of the Constitutional Court has come under the level of attack as it has from Mr Zuma,” she further said.
Khampepe said that Zuma will serve an unsuspended sentence of 15 months in prison for 15 months.
Khampepe said on Tuesday, that Zuma has five calendar days to hand himself over to either the Nkandla police station or the Johannesburg police station.
If he does not hand himself in, the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, was ordered to take any means necessary to ensure that Zuma will serve his sentence.
Zuma hits back
Since the judgment Zuma has kept a low profile, communicating via lawyers from the Jacob Zuma Foundation.
Zuma hit back at the ruling, communicating via the lawyers from the Jacob Zuma Foundation.
According to the foundation lawyers, Zuma described it as “judicially emotional and angry and not consistent with our Constitution”.
Zuma also launched a blistering attack on the Zondo Commission into state capture, saying it had become a “slaughtering house” where unsubstantiated allegations were made against him.
“We are busy studying the judgment and discussing with our lawyers to get legal advice on the options available,” the Jacob Zuma Foundation said in a statement.
Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo
Acting Chief Justice, Zondo, explained in a media briefing during the week that he had considered options on the matter and decided to petition the Constitutional Court directly when it became clear that Zuma would not cooperate with the commission.
He said the fact that Zuma had launched an application for his recusal did not mean he could not honour the summons for him to appear before the commission.
In his reaction to the scathing judgment penned by Acting Chief of Justice Sisi Khampepe, Zuma did not mince his words.
“Judges are not above the law. At a bare minimum, this means that courts must act independently and without bias, with unremitting fidelity to the law, and must be seen to be doing so. That did not happen in the Constitutional Court, as evidenced by the latest judgment,” the foundation said.
“We concur with the view of other justices who said the Constitutional Court majority acted contrary to the rule of law. The primacy of our Constitution was not vindicated in this matter at all. Actual or perceived judicial bias is unacceptable in our constitutional order,” it added.
On Friday, the Office of the Chief Justice announced that Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo assumed responsibilities as Acting Chief Justice with effect from Thursday.
On Thursday, the Constitutional Court continued its firm stance in the Zuma matter, after sending an order to the Westville Correctional Center.
In a letter addressed to the head of the correctional center, Acting Chief of Justice Sisi Khampepe commanded the head of the prison, to receive Zuma into custody and deal with him in accordance with the law relating to prisons.
Zuma’s address to supporters
Also on Friday, news spread that the former president would be addressing his supporters over the weekend.
“The address will either be Saturday or Sunday. Finer details are being worked on including the venue and logistics,” said JG Zuma Foundation in a statement.
Hundred of former MK vets gathered at the Nkandla homestead throughout the week, saying they were there to protect Zuma and stop the police from arresting him.
Earlier in the week, Zuma supporters blocked a police van from entering the vicinity.
The weekend could be filled with drama if Zuma chooses not to hand himself in for custody, which will be on Sunday. Many have speculated that the situation could erupt if Zuma chooses to defy the court’s ruling.
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