Former president Jacob Zuma said he was imprisoned for contempt of court; without trial and that something has “gone terribly wrong” in the country adding that his vote was not a secret. Read his full speech below:
Remarks at Prayer Meeting to Welcome H. E. President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma after his Release on Parole from 15 Months’ Prison Sentence for Contempt of Court; Without Trial
Friends, comrades, relatives, lovers of freedom and peace, I greet you all.
Please allow me to thank the following structures:
Leaders of the faith and fellow believers - Abefundisi nomaMfundisi ngezigaba ezehlukene
Traditional leaders – Amakhosi ezigabeni nezizwe zonke
Sikhulekele iNdlunkulu nobukhosi boNgangezwe
Leadership of the Jacob Zuma Foundation
Leadership and members of my party, the African National Congress, ANC
Leaders of Cosatu
Leaders of Sanco
Leading cadres of the SACP
Former combatants and officers of Umkhonto WeSizwe and the South African Security Forces
All comrades and supporters driving the project of socio-economic transformation
Compatriots and friends
Today I wish to express my gratitude for your support and prayers, as a prisoner of the democratic state, in which the black majority controls the levers of state power.
The fact that you have come to support me with prayers means a lot to me. Today we have a state governed by those who know what it is like to be oppressed and denied fundamental human rights.
It is this state that has imprisoned me for contempt of court; without trial. Something has gone terribly wrong in our country. The main aspects of the unconstitutional debacle that ended with my current imprisonment bears repeating.
Yes, I remain a prisoner, under very strict parole conditions. It feels like what house arrest and banning orders must have felt like during the colonial-apartheid government.
Many attempts were made to remove me from any leadership position in the ANC and the democratic government since 1994.
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry was the final measure of those who fear what I represent could use. There is no legislation in terms of which anyone can direct the president to appoint a commission of inquiry.
The public protector went further to recommend that the head of such commission must be selected by the Chief Justice. The president was only required to endorse the appointed the judge; as if he is performing his function in terms of Section 84 (f) of the Constitution. All official action of the president could be challenged for constitutionality. This happens all the time.
For this reason, all official actions must be done in writing in terms of the Constitution and the law.
As president of the Republic I approached the court to ensure that I would be acting within the remit of the powers and functions of the president. The competent court ultimately ruled that I should establish the commission, as recommended by the public protector, and endorse the name of the judge selected by the Chief Justice.
I decided it was prudent to comply; but noted my disagreement with these decisions.
The idea that even judges make mistakes is easy to understand. Judges are human beings; and so are lawmakers and practitioners. They have personal views and beliefs that frame their understanding of legal principles.
The laws and court processes do become sites of the struggle for control of state power between contesting political parties. The Chief Justice gave me the name of a judge from the Western Cape Division of the High Court. In the middle of the process the Chief Justice came back with a different name for the head of the commission, Judge Raymond Zondo.
I found this puzzling but decided that challenging this would simply feed into the narrative that I was delaying the process. From the beginning it became evident that the Commission was, consciously or not, simply feeding the media narrative of a corrupt ANC and a corrupt ANC government.
Let me be clear. The Commission has surfaced much evidence of irregularities and apparent corrupt behaviour on the part of various people. The evidence will be tested in due course and appropriate decisions taken. My opening statement at the Commission in 2019 outlined the background against which it was established; especially the political context.
The evidence leader started a line of questioning that purported to give me an opportunity to rebut the affidavits of various people, including former colleagues who served as appointed by myself to the Cabinet. My legal team objected to the process and the session was adjourned.
Subsequently, I lodged an application for the recusal of Judge Zondo from presiding in the session to entertain my testimony. Judge Zondo elected to act as his own witness against me; while presiding over the application for his recusal.
He went on to rule against me on the matter between him and me, where the facts were in dispute. My legal team gave notice that we would apply for the review of his decision. We subsequently applied for the review of his decision at the high Court.
Judge Zondo gave his notice to defend his decision as the commissioner. He then hastily sought and obtained direct access to the Constitutional Court to compel me to appear before him. The court, acting as first and last instance, ruled in his favour.
It also ordered punitive costs against me; even though I had declined to oppose the application by the Commission. It appeared that, deliberately or not, I was being railroaded in a manner that is in flagrant disregard of the letter and spirit of the Constitution. I therefore again declined to appear before Judge Zondo under these circumstances.
He made another application to the Constitutional Court this time to hold me in contempt. He also sought for a two-year punitive jail sentence. He made it clear that he was not interested in having me appear before him.
He just wanted me to be sent to jail for two years without trial by the Constitutional Court, as a warning to everyone, about its apparently unlimited powers. The court reserved judgment.
The then acting Chief Justice sent me a letter inviting me to make representations, by return letter, indicating what I thought would be a suitable sentence were I to be found guilty of contempt. This felt like I was called on to suggest which rope should be used to hang me; without having pleaded to any charge and been prosecuted in a court.
It seemed to me like an attempt for me to legitimise what I still view to be an unconstitutional process. I indicated my misgivings and declined to be part of such a process. The Constitutional Court subsequently delivered a judgement holding me in contempt of court and sentencing me to 15 months in jail.
The majority sentencing judgment criticises me for expressing my opinions and beliefs about the whole process and the role of the courts in it. Indeed, the judgment declares that expressing my views and beliefs is inappropriate, and justifies a severe prison sentence, without trial process.
As an ordinary citizen, and head of state and government at the time of the establishment of the Commission, I have continued to wrestle with the constitutionality of the process. I came to the conclusion that we are hurtling toward a constitutional crisis that could easily descend into severe social instability.
My legal team applied for stay of execution of sentence; pending an application to the Constitutional Court for it to rescind its order. The Constitutional Court agreed to hear the application on an urgent basis. The Pietermaritzburg High Court reserved its judgement on stay of execution of sentence. This order created lack of clarity about potential stay of execution of sentence.
The South African police had sought clarity on just this issue. The last days before the arrest deadline armed security forces descended on the King Cetshwayo District municipality. The declared intention was to execute my arrest regardless of any potential loss of life. Many comrades and supporters were demonstrating against what appeared to be heavy-handed, and unwarranted show of state violence to arrest me.
To avoid endangering the lives of innocent citizens, including members of my family, I handed myself to be jailed at the Estcourt Prison. Allow me to highlight my thoughts about where we are on the road to freedom.
Today the Constitution and rule of law appear to be used as weapons to avenge oneself against political opponents; and to suppress alternative viewpoints. The rule of law is losing its essential power to build a strong and united nation. It is becoming a source of conflict rather than a mechanism to adjudicate and resolve civil and political conflicts.
Let us be clear. The Constitution, as a solemn undertaking among citizens, creates civil and public peace. The makers of the Constitution are the citizens of the country. The citizens have the ultimate duty and responsibility to ensure that the Constitution is truly an instrument of peace and nation-building. Every citizen must be concerned if it appears that the Constitution and the rule of law are abused by the rich and powerful; whoever they may be.
Colonial and apartheid law advanced various interests of the minority white population; against the black majority. It rode roughshod over the human rights of black people. Law under the new Constitution is increasingly being experienced as advancing the exclusive interests of the rich and powerful.
Formally, all citizens are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. But access is restricted to a tiny minority with huge financial and other resources. The legal and judicial systems are creatures of the Constitution.
Judges are functionaries that are given life by the Constitution. They are not above the Constitution. Their interpretation of the Constitution and the law must accord with that of the makers of the Constitution and law. The majority of citizens want to believe that judges interpret the law to protect them and advance their interests; not to use it for retribution.
Judges of the highest court in the land have a fundamental duty to highlight an obvious disjuncture between what the majority of citizens expect; and what the law determines.
As my fellow citizens you have come to prayerfully comfort me as I continue to be a prisoner by order of the highest court of the country; without trial. Two judges, in the minority judgement, found that the majority judgment is bad in law, violates my constitutional rights, and is therefore unconstitutional.
The same division among judges subsequently happened; in the rejection of my application for the rescission of the majority judgement. As it is, I have decided to submit an application to an external jurisdiction, to adjudicate the matter. We want to have a law-governed society. The current Constitution sought to assure every citizen, black or white, that never again shall people be denied fundamental human rights.
It also deliberately sought to assure, especially white compatriots that a black-dominated state will not trample on their rights too. All citizens can be proud that peace was restored, and a largely tolerant social and political environment, has been maintained to date.
Simultaneously, everyone would admit that now the cracks in society are widening, as evidenced by the revolts in July and the deployment of soldiers by the government.
The Constitution has built-in mechanisms that have been used till the last Eighteenth Constitutional Amendment Act.
I would suggest that serious consideration must be given to a more people-driven process of constitutional review; which will end with a national referendum to endorse an amended Constitution.
Allow me to make few remarks with regard to my own organisation, the ANC. Some people often mistake the behaviour of the incumbent leadership to be the behaviour of the ANC. The ANC is rooted amongst the people; with members in every branch. Others mistake misbehaving individual members for the ANC. I want to underline that you and I, WE are the ANC. The ANC is US. I want to underline this.
The enemies of freedom have always tried to divide the ANC, and to divide those who fight for freedom and those who work strengthen democracy, as well as society at large. They have done this by spreading lies about the ANC and its leaders. They have done this by minimising the successes and magnifying shortcomings and failures.
They have, and continue to undermine the strength of the ANC, also from within its own ranks. They have planted, and continue to sponsor their own agents in the ANC ranks, particularly at leadership levels. We therefore must remain vigilant and defeat their machinations.
The ANC will succeed because the people in their millions will rise with it.
It will succeed because at the end of the day all social forces in the country, black or white, know that an ANC that is rooted among the people is the most reliable partner for true freedom and peace.
Allow me make some remarks about local government. Members and supporters of the ANC have a right and duty to vote for local councillors that shall represent their interests for the next five years. We have a duty to make sure that we vote for our organisation to form the next government in all municipalities.
Failure to vote gives all power away to forces that will undermine the people’s interests. Campaigning against the ANC in the upcoming elections is also tantamount to giving the ANC away to those who are working to kill it and the aspirations of the majority within our country.
Members who break away to stand as independent candidates or support other parties make a strategic and dangerous mistake because of temporary frustration, anger and disillusionment.
My vote is not a secret.
There is an opportunity, now and after the elections, to surmount internal divisions and strengthen the structures of the ANC; and Alliance partner formations. As we prepare for the 55th National Conference, those who truly love the ANC, have the duty to strengthen its structures and also to ensure that it retains local state power in every municipality. The 55th National Conference will review the progress during the current leadership term.
Let all who wish it the best, and the best for all South Africans, make sure that when the Conference adjourns, it brings in a truly new era for our organisation.
Allow me the opportunity to stress the importance of Unity of the National Democratic Forces. The 1994 moment was a culmination of the determined and relentless struggle of the national democratic and working-class forces behind the vision of total emancipation.
The most critical factor was the unity of the oppressed black people across the widest spectrum of ideological position. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, African traditional faiths and other faiths united behind the vision of Freedom for All.
They united with community based organisations and trade unions behind this vision. They united with communists behind this vision. They united with progressive white compatriots behind this vision. My call is for all of us to ponder the future and decide whether we shall come out as those who represent the best, or the worst, of humanity.
If faith in humanity were ever called upon to show itself; it is now. All of us have a constructive role to play. Let our consciences and political consciousness be our personal guides.
Sonke sidabuka othulini!
We shall defend all our leaders and all our comrades!
Mayibuye i Afrika! Nkosi Sikelela i Afrika!