The FW de Klerk Foundation welcomes the development that the Constitutional Court has found former President Jacob Zuma guilty of contempt of court after Zuma’s refusal to appear before the State Capture Commission.
Zuma has repeatedly stated “that he would rather go to prison than cooperate with the commission” and he defied an order by the apex court, as well as a summons, compelling him to appear.
In a judgment – handed down by Justice Sisi Khampepe – Zuma was given an unsuspended sentence of 15 months imprisonment and he now has 5 days to present himself to the police at Nkandla or Johannesburg Central police station to begin serving his sentence at a correctional facility. The Court indicated that should he fail to do so “the minister of police and the national commissioner of police must take necessary and legal measures to ensure that Zuma is brought to justice and committed to a correctional centre”.
Justice Khampepe said that “never before has the judicial process been so threatened. It goes without saying that neither the public’s vested interest nor the ends of justice would be served if we declined to exercise our special authority as the guardian of the Constitution and if this matter were to be required to traverse the ordinary and lengthy appeals process. Furthermore the vigour with which Mr Zuma is peddling his disdain of the Constitutional Court and the judicial process carries the risk that he will inspire others to similarly defy court orders”.
The court also indicated that as a former president, he had a heightened obligation to uphold the law. In light of the above Justice Khampepe – on behalf of the majority of the Court – indicated that “the only appropriate sanction is a direct unsuspended order of imprisonment”.
South Africa as a whole should welcome this judgment. It is a pivotal victory for the Constitution, administration of justice and the rule of law in South Africa. Any failure to effect the judgment would constitute further contempt of court.
The judicial authority of the Republic is vested in the courts. They are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law – which they must apply impartially and without fear, favour or prejudice and through this judgment the Constitutional Court has done just that.
It has sent a clear message that everyone continues to be equal before the law – despite the persona of those who appear before it.
Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation
29 June 2021