GO HANG: You have never sentenced anyone to prison – Jacob Zuma tells Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng

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Former President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday said he would not be writing to the constitutional Court after all.

Wednesday is the last day that he was expected to tell Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng how he should be sentenced, if he is found guilty of contempt of court.

In a 21-page letter, Zuma said he was not guilty of contempt, but he would be the first prisoner of the Constitutional Court if it decides to lock him up.

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Mogoeng wrote to Zuma last week, giving him him the opportunity to propose an appropriate sentence in no more than 15 pages.

Zuma said he wouldn’t legitimise the charge of contempt of court by telling Mogoeng how to sentence him.

He said all the Constitutional Court judgment did was to take away his right to have his review application heard and determined.

The former president said he did not participate in the proceedings before the Constitutional Court because he saw them as nothing but a strategy to cover its decision with some legitimacy.

He said he didn’t ask for the right to a hearing because it was an invention of the chief justice.

He said his right to have a justifiable dispute with Zondo over his suitability to receive and determine evidence given by or against him in the Zondo commission was taken away

Zuma said the Constitutional Court was attempting to correct its rather incorrect decision in hearing a matter relating to a summons or the non-compliance thereto when the commissions act contains an internal provision as to how a commission should deal with. Such an eventuality.

He said he would protect his constitutional rights even at the risk of being imprisoned.

And he reminds Mogoeng that he has just turned 79.

He has already snubbed two hearings of the Constitutional Court; one was an application for a court order to compel him to appear at the state capture commission and another asking the court to find him guilty of contempt for not obeying its order.

Zuma said in a statement in the past that the commission and the court were treating him the way that the apartheid regime did for PAC founder Robert Sobukwe.

The commission wants him jailed for two years.

The Constitutional Court is yet to announce a date to deliver its ruling.

WATCH: Zondo: We will ask for imprisonment of Zuma if found guilty of contempt of court

Zuma, 79, repeatedly snubbed a judicial panel investigating the plunder of state coffers during his nine-year rule, claiming bias on the part of its chair and political interference in the judiciary.

The former head of state testified only once in July 2019 before staging a walkout days later.

On January 28, the Constitutional Court ordered Zuma to appear before the commission – led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo – but he ignored the order.

Zondo then petitioned the country's top court to jail the scandal-tainted former leader for two years for contempt.

But a defiant Zuma skipped the hearing last month and did not file required affidavits.

The court now wants Zuma to determine "what constitutes the appropriate sanction" if he is found guilty.

'MAFIA STATE'

The decision creates an impression of special treatment, said James Grant, a constitutional lawyer, but he added that a soft landing could also spell bad news for Zuma.

The court's judges are "bending over backwards to accommodate him… and are preparing to give him a harsh sentence. They want to show themselves as having taken every possible opportunity to hear from him," Grant explained.

Law professor Omphemetse Sibanda of the University of Limpopo warned that the court's actions could spell disaster for the country.

In the long term, courts risk being abused by a "clique of rogue powerful elite and politicians as if South Africa is a mafia state where the judiciary is responsible to the politicians," he wrote in a column on News24 website.

Zuma had earlier this year compared the courts to the apartheid judiciary functioning under white minority rule.

While highlighting his own anti-apartheid exploits, Zuma said in a statement that he was ready for "the law to take its course" and did not fear being arrested, convicted or incarcerated.

"The wrath visited upon me as an individual knows no bounds," he said.

Zuma's defiance has split his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party with one faction, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, vowing to stamp out corruption.

The findings of the anti-corruption commission will not lead directly to indictments but may be handed to the prosecution for possible charges.

Zuma, who came to power in 2009, was forced to resign in 2018 over graft scandals involving an Indian business family, the Guptas — who won lucrative contracts with state companies and were allegedly even able to choose Cabinet ministers.

– EWN


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