Zuma’s sentence faces challenge
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DURBAN - KWAZULU-Natal non-governmental organisation Real Democracy has vowed to challenge the Constitutional Court judgment against former president Jacob Zuma at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The body, whose head office is in Pietermaritzburg, was reacting to Tuesday’s judgment which found Zuma guilty of being in contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months’ imprisonment.
Real Democracy also called on the African Union to establish an independent arbiter who would review Concourt judgments of fellow particular states.
The organisation’s spokesperson, Srini Naidoo, told the Daily News it was concerned that there was no other recourse when the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, had issued an unconstitutional decision.
“For us, and many others, this is an unconstitutional decision. The dilemma is that if you feel that the judgment issued against you was biased and unconstitutional, where do you go? Our feeling is that in a polluted political atmosphere like South Africa, you are most likely to find judges giving a political judgment because they know the buck stops with them and the respondent has no other recourse, which is why we are taking the matter to the ICC,” said Naidoo.
However, Black Lawyers Association coastal chairperson Mpumelelo Zikalala said the matter could not be taken to the ICC.
“The ICC deals with gross human rights violations which are not in Zuma’s case. Zuma refused the opportunity to be heard by the court so there were no human rights violations,” he said.
Delivering the judgment, Acting Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe said the majority on the bench felt that handing down a suspended sentence would defeat the logic.
The main judgment was penned by Justice Khampepe with Madlanga J, Majiedt J, Mhlantla J, Pillay AJ, Tlaletsi AJ and Tshiqi J all concurring on the unsuspended sentence.
Justices Leona Theron and Chris Jafta, who penned the second judgment, concurred with others that Zuma indeed was guilty of contempt of court, but said it would be unconstitutional to give him an unsuspended sentence.
All judges agreed that this matter engaged the Constitutional Court’s jurisdiction and that the circumstances warranted granting direct access on an urgent basis.
They said that contempt of court proceedings existed to protect the rule of law and the authority of the judiciary.
It was held that neither the public’s vested interests nor the ends of justice would be served if the matter had been required to traverse the ordinary, and lengthy, appeals process. The judges argued that it was accordingly held to be in the interests of justice to grant direct access, and to do so on an urgent basis.
“In determining the appropriate sanction, the main judgment considered the differences between coercive orders, which use suspended imprisonment as a threat to compel compliance, and punitive orders of direct committal.
“The main judgment held that a coercive order would be both futile and inappropriate as Mr Zuma was resolute in his refusal to comply. The main judgment held that affording Mr Zuma another opportunity to attend the commission would have no effect other than to prolong his defiance and to signal that impunity is to be enjoyed by those who defy court orders.”
Zuma’s matter was heard in December last year after the secretary of the State Capture Commission approached the Concourt. It was after Zuma walked away from the commission without permission and subsequently refused to attend.
On January 28 this year, the Concourt ordered Zuma to file affidavits and attend the commission to give evidence before it between February 15 and 19, as summoned by the commission, but Zuma did not comply. He responded by releasing a public statement in which he alleged that the commission and the Concourt were victimising him.
Zuma was ordered to hand himself to the Nkandla or Johannesburg Central police stations within five days for their station commanders to immediately deliver him to a correctional centre.
According to the judgment, should Zuma not present himself to either of the two police stations, Police Minister Bheki Cele and national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole have been ordered to take all steps necessary and permissible in law to ensure that Zuma is committed to a correctional centre within three calendar days afterwards.