DURBAN - The Jacob Zuma Foundation has maintained that Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is conflicted, and as a result, the foundation will seek advice from its legal team to pave a way forward.
The foundation was reacting to former chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s denial that he had personally written a letter to former president Jacob Zuma instructing him to inform the Constitutional Court of measures that should be taken against him if found guilty of being in contempt of court.
Spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi said that Zuma was not taking the matter lightly and that he would meet his lawyers to discuss it.
“The foundation is concerned and worried about the possible conflict of interest concerning Judge Zondo. There are only two people in that office, the chief justice and his deputy.
“If the letter was not written by the chief justice then it can only be his deputy, who also chaired the (State Capture) commission and took former president Zuma to the Concourt, who wrote a letter to Zuma through the chief justice’s office,” Manyi said.
On April 9 last year, Justice Mogoeng reportedly penned a letter to Zuma asking him to file an affidavit, no longer than 15 pages and within three days, on the appropriate sanction that should be imposed on him.
The matter emanated from Zuma’s failure to appear before the State Capture Commission, which Justice Zondo was chairing.
In a letter he wrote back to Justice Mogoeng, Zuma said: “I wish to advise you that I will not depose an affidavit as presently directed.
“Second, I wish to advise that my stance in this regard is not out of any disrespect for you or the court, but stems from my conscientious objection to the manner in which I have been treated.”
In giving his reasons for refusing to submit the requested affidavit, Zuma cited that he had not participated in “proceedings before the Constitutional Court” and that the process was not conducted in a fair manner.
On Monday night, Justice Mogoeng told broadcaster JJ Tabane during an interview on his show Power to Truth, that he knew nothing about the document in question.
“I was not involved in that case. I am not going to comment on what my colleagues did. I did not write a letter.”
Justice Mogoeng also said that while he was already on leave, all correspondence and directives that came out of the Constitutional Court were issued under the name of the chief justice.
Meanwhile, asked if he “felt left out” by all that transpired, including Zuma’s arrest, after he took early leave, Justice Mogoeng indicated that he felt obliged to take time off and laughed off suggestions that he was on suspension.
“I felt, at seven years already as chief justice, that I have done all that I needed to do. I started looking for a legal loophole for me to retire without losing out on my benefits and I could not find it.
“At the 11th hour, I asked the officials to find out if I had leave days and they said ‘you do’. I jumped for it. Mischief-makers said I was on suspension. I don’t know for what. You know the lying spirit is mesmerising about people,” he said.
Justice Mogoeng also weighed in on freedom of expression in South Africa, saying: “Freedom of expression has gone out of the window.
“There is a lot of harassment of people who dare to express themselves freely as long as what they say does not accord with the preferred narrative. I think we must correct that.”
Contacted for comment, spokesperson for the judiciary, Nathi Mncube said: “All directives from any court are signed by the registrar of the court. In this case, the registrar of the court may have received a directive from the Concourt judges that were involved in the case.”
Legal expert advocate Francois Botes SC said that it was unfortunate how the matter had played out.
“It is undesirable to have (a) … deputy chief justice privately engaging members of the executive on political issues, but it is also important to distinguish the role and functions of the deputy chief justice and the State Capture commission of inquiry.
“In all probability the findings of the inquiry will be subject to court reviews, and they will eventually go to the Concourt where these concerns will be raised,” Botes said.
Mpumelelo Zikalala of Zikalala Attorneys said: “If there is a matter to discuss it is whether those judges in the Concourt acted independently and whether there was no influence.
“The rules of the court do not allow the chief justice to extend the rules of the court for good reasons; however, on the issue of the arrest of the former president, the court overstepped as the sentencing was harsh.”