Durban - It was a roller-coaster week in South African politics as former president Jacob Zuma and Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo had a standoff over whether or not Zuma would appear before the Zondo Commission probing allegations of state capture.
The standoff started on February 1 when Zuma issued a startling statement saying he would not appear before the commission as instructed through a ruling handed over by the Constitutional Court days earlier. Zuma said the commission was out to get him and it was fighting political battles.
Sticking to his guns, last Sunday, Zuma, through his spokesperson, Vukile Mathabela, confirmed that he was not going to appear.
Despite that, the commission issued a statement on the same day and said Zuma is obliged to appear before it as instructed by the highest court in the land. It further said it would announce its course of action only when Zuma’s threat becomes a reality.
Monday came, Zuma fulfilled his threat and defied the court ruling.
The commission was left scrambling after his lawyers said there was still a challenge against the commission’s chairperson, deputy chief justice, Raymond Zondo, to recuse himself.
Until that has been settled, Zuma’s appearance would be “irregular”.
Not convinced by the explanation given by Zuma’s lawyers, Zondo announced that they would go back to the Constitutional Court to ask it to penalised Zuma for defiance.
“If the message that is sent out is that people can ignore, disregard or defy summonses and orders of courts that are issued by various courts every day in our country, and that they can defy those with impunity, there will be very little that will be left of our democracy,” Zondo said.
Not to be outdone, on the same day, later on Monday, Zuma whose home is under 24-hour protection of MK veterans and RET (Radical Economic Transformation) and Ubumbano Lokuthula members since Sunday, issued his own “final statement” where he said he was not backing down on his defiance.
He said his defiance was a political statement against a system which was hellbent on victimising him.
“Now that it seems that my role in the commission has come to an end, I wait to face the sentence to be issued by the Constitutional Court. Accordingly, I stand by my statement of 1 February 2021 and no amount of intimidation or blackmail will change my position as I firmly believe that we should never allow for the establishment of a judiciary in which justice, fairness and due process are discretionary and are exclusively preserved for certain litigants and not others” he said a 12-page statement with 37 points.
As standoff persisted, Zuma’s children, Edward and Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, taunted his detractors, saying he was not going to surrender to Zondo and anyone who wants him must come to fetch him from his Nkandla home.
On the other side, the ANC in KZN and at the national level was scrambling to find a solution. Addressing a provincial executive committee (PEC) lekgotla on Monday from the party’s provincial headquarters in Durban, KZN ANC chairperson, Sihle Zikalala said called on the ruling party to intervene saying Zuma’s standoff with the commission of inquiry into state capture has affected the ANC.
Zikalala said Zuma needed to understand all party members and the party itself should respect the rule of law.
"First, we must ensure that we engage with the former president to understand that the organisation and leaders of the organisation must at all material times embrace the laws of our country and equally ensure that they subject themselves to the laws and the prescripts of the country," Zikalala said.