FORMER president Jacob Zuma must go to the Zondo Commission in orange overalls.
This was the submission by the commission’s lawyer, Advocate Thembeka Ngcukaitobi, in the Constitutional Court on Thursday, 25 March.
He said there was no fitting punishment for the former president’s decision to disobey the court order that instructed him to appear before the commission than direct imprisonment.
“A person who has intentionally disobeyed a court order is guilty of a crime known as contempt of court. Zuma is no exception. His status as former president doesn’t protect him from the law,” said Ngcukaitobi.
He said there were strong reasons Zuma should be prisoned and not fined or given a suspended sentence.
He said among other reasons was that his conduct threatens the entire constitutional order.
“He has made unjustified and false public utterance about the court and was doing everything to avoid accountability.
“The penalty of two years must reflect this court’s disapproval of this type of cynicism, particularly when it is exhibited by someone who was once a president of this country and took an oath to comply with the Constitution at all times,” said Ngcukaitobi.
On 28 January, the Constitutional Court ordered Zuma to comply with all lawfully issued summonses and directives of the commission and appear and give evidence before the commission.
Justice Chris Jafta said: “Mr Zuma does not have a right to remain silent in the proceedings before the commission and Mr Zuma is entitled to all privileges under section 3(4) of the Commissions Act, including the privilege against self-incrimination.”
Ngcukaitobi said the former president did not bother and instead made the court his target of angry, threatening and provocative tirades.
“As we speak today, Mr Zuma has not complied with that order. He has not attended the commission and has failed to file his affidavits as required.”
He said Zuma was firmly placed at the centre of the state capture investigation as it is alleged that he surrendered his constitutional powers to private individuals. If those allegations are true, his conduct will constitute a subversion of this country’s constitutional order,” he said.
Ngcukaitobi said the public has been deprived to hear Zuma’s side of the story.
On 1 February, the former president issued a statement accusing the court’s decision to order him to appear before Zondo of “effectively stripped me off my constitutional right as a citizen”.
Ngcukaitobi said Zuma was exploiting his political status to gain support and run away from taking responsibility.
“This is not a case about freedom of speech. This is a case of a deliberate campaign to discredit the court and must be seen as such. Period.”
He said a suspended sentence would not send a clear message to Zuma and would-be law breakers.
“It doesn’t give the appropriate weight to the harm. It doesn’t appropriately vindicate the authority of the court. It ultimately reduces the assault on the dignity of the court to money exchange. That is just inappropriate.”
Zuma did not file to the court.
Ngcukaitobi said Zuma knew that a sanction sought by the Zondo Commission was his imprisonment but chose to not even file a notice that he was not binding and not opposing the application and he simply ignored the proceedings.
“What we are asking for is that people should not wage political campaigns on falsehoods against members of the judiciary with no consequences. Here a former president should not do that,” Ngcukaitobi said.
In the papers, the commission said it had lost all hope that Zuma would ever return to testify before it.
“We do not ask for his appearance, we’re asking for his punishment,” he said.
Judgment was reserved.