Johannesburg - Acting Deputy Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe with six other Constitutional Court justices condemned former president Jacob Zuma to a year and three months in jail for contempt of the apex court’s order.
On Tuesday, Zuma paid the heavy price for failing to comply with the country’s highest court’s unanimous order to obey all summonses and directives lawfully issued by the commission of inquiry into state capture.
In January, the Concourt also directed the former president to appear before the commission, give evidence and declared that he does not have a right to remain silent.
Zuma failed to appear before the state capture inquiry, forcing the commission to approach the Constitutional Court on an urgent basis in March.
Just over three months after the matter was heard, albeit without Zuma’s participation after he snubbed the court’s directives to file an affidavit, the apex court jailed the ex-head of state for 15 months.
Zuma has been given five days to present himself to the Nkandla or Johannesburg Central police stations to start serving his jail term failing which the police must ensure that he begins imprisonment within three days afterwards.
Here are five extracts from the judgment written by Justice Khampepe, who retires in October. Khampepe’s judgement nailed Zuma, with Justices Mbuyiseli Madlanga, Steven Majiedt, Nonkosi Mhlantla, Dhaya Pillay, Pule Tlaletsi and Zukisa Tshiqi concurring:
1. At its core, this matter is about an egregious threat posed to the authority of the Constitution, the integrity of the judicial process, and the dignity of this court. If these circumstances do not warrant “swift and effective judicial intervention”, then I do not know what will. And I am not disturbed by the fact that this intervention may not be appealable for it is the administration of justice that requires this intervention.
2.(Zuma) has failed to present any evidence whatsoever to avoid the conclusion that his non-compliance (with the January court order) was wilful and mala fide (in bad faith) … Notwithstanding that Zuma has been afforded the opportunity to advance evidence before this court to contest his wilfulness or mala fides; he has outright refused to do so.
3. Contempt is not the act of non-compliance with a court order alone, but encompasses the nature of that contempt, the extent of it and the surrounding circumstances. I must therefore take cognisance of the unique and scandalous features of this particular contempt. If I were to ignore those aspects, I believe I would be adjudicating the matter with one eye closed, and declining to decide it without fear, as I am constitutionally mandated to do.
4. His conduct demonstrates a deliberate choice to, instead of furnishing this court with mitigating factors, once again air his views through inflammatory statements intended to undermine this court’s authority and portray himself as a victim of the law.
All of this, besides being scandalous, is totally irrelevant to the question of sanction upon which he was directed to make submissions.
5. This leads me to the final point and exceptional feature of this matter that justifies the punitive sanction that I impose: the unique and special political position that Zuma enjoys as the former president.
He has a great deal of power to incite others to similarly defy court orders because his actions and any consequences, or lack thereof, are being closely observed by the public.
If his conduct is met with impunity, he will do significant damage to the rule of law.