EXPERTS: FORMER PRESIDENT COULD END UP BEHIND BARS FOR DEFIANCE Ignores court ruling to appear before commission.
After saying he would rather go to jail than testify in front of Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture again, former president Jacob Zuma could soon have to put his money where his mouth is.
While the commission has yet to comment on Zuma’s latest show of defiance against it, experts and analysts say prison time is now a very real threat for him.
The Constitutional Court last week ordered Zuma to cooperate with the commission but he has since responded with the proverbial middle finger and in a statement yesterday said he was still not appearing before Zondo – who is chairing the proceedings – for questioning.
He could now be facing the possibility of contempt charges, in addition to charges under the
But Zuma was yesterday undeterred and said he would provide “no further cooperation. If this stance is considered to be a violation of their law, then let their law take its course. I do not fear being arrested; I do not fear being convicted nor do I fear being incarcerated,” he said.
After all the commission’s previous efforts to get him back into the witness box – following a brief appearance in 2019 – had come to nought, Zondo eventually subpoenaed Zuma late last year.
After he staged a dramatic walkout, he was again subpoenaed. This time around, though, the commission also approached the Constitutional Court for an order compelling him to comply.
But Zuma yesterday again said he was the victim of political persecution – accusing the commission of having created “a special and different approach to specifically deal with him and the court of having followed its lead.
He even likened himself to struggle hero Robert Sobukwe – who was detained for years under laws the apartheid regime designed specifically for him.
The apartheid government enacted the Sobukwe Clause in 1963, with the express purpose of empowering itself to extend Sobukwe’s detention indefinitely, with his being the only case in which the clause was ever invoked.
“The parallels are too similar to ignore given that Sobukwe was specifically targeted for his ideological stance on liberation. I, on the other hand, am the target of propaganda, vilification and falsified claims against me for my stance on the transformation of this country and its economy,” Zuma said.
He added he had been left “with no other alternative but to be defiant against injustice as I did against the apartheid government” – a nod to his incarceration as a political prisoner during the struggle.
Advocate James Grant, who specialises in criminal law, yesterday said Zuma could, in theory, be charged under either the Commissions Act or for contempt.
But Grant also said there was an even more direct route open to the commission.
In terms of the Commissions Act, commissions enjoy the same powers as the courts to summons witnesses. And in terms of the Superior Courts Act, a witness who refuses to comply with a summons can be detained for up to eight days at a time.
“It’s a much faster route and it’s designed to put a person under particular pressure to do what they’re supposed to do in terms of a summons,” Grant explained.
Political analyst Sandile Swana said the commission’s only choice now was to get the police to arrest Zuma.
He highlighted the findings of Justice Chris Jafta – who wrote the Constitutional Court’s judgment – that the commission had, in fact, not even needed to go to court to do this. “It could have been done long ago,” he said.
He also said, however, were Zuma to be jailed for this that it would be “Christmas” for him.
“He might be on very shaky ground legally but, politically, there’s a beautiful case that he’s weaving together,” he said.