Johannesburg -THE Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) has described former president Jacob Zuma’s contempt of a Constitutional Court order as being of an extraordinary nature, and his attacks on the judiciary were scandalising the key institution.
In papers filed at the Constitutional Court on Tuesday, the foundation said Zuma’s scandalising attacks on the apex court’s justices, the court and the judiciary was an aggravating factor.
”The harm of these attacks must be assessed in light of the historical context surrounding the judiciary and the importance of public trust in the judicial process and the courts,” the HSF states in its written submissions.
The HSF has applied to be admitted as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the commission of inquiry into state capture’s Constitutional Court bid to have Zuma jailed for two years after being held in contempt of court for ignoring subpoenas issued by the inquiry despite being ordered to do so by the apex court.
According to the foundation, the matter brought by the commission against Zuma is no ordinary case of contempt of court.
“Zuma’s conduct constitutes the height of contempt. The exceptionality of this case lies not only in Zuma’s scandalising insults and attacks, but also in his breach of a heightened obligation to comply with this court’s order,” it states in the submissions.
The HSF said Zuma’s position as the former president of the Republic, the nature of the Constitutional Court’s order, and its close connection to the constitutional values of accountability and openness, underpinned by the public interest in and right to the truth, heightened his obligation.
It contends that Zuma’s breach of his heightened obligation to comply with the court’s order was also a factor that must be taken into account in determining an appropriate sanction.
The HSF highlighted the underlying importance of the commission’s truth-seeking work, the public interest in and right to the uncovering of the truth through a complete and effective investigation.
It said the extraordinary nature of Zuma’s contempt emphasised the heightened duty of compliance that he bears by virtue of his former role, as well as the constitutional and international law importance of the obligations sought to be enforced in the defied order.
The HSF has suggested that the Constitutional Court’s determination of an appropriate sanction for contempt of court must serve both punitive ends and coercive ends.
Arguments in the matter will be heard on Thursday, but Zuma will not be participating.