Durban - Supporters of former president Jacob Zuma on Monday said they disagreed with the decision by the chairperson of the inquiry into state capture, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, to approach the Constitutional Court to seek a contempt of court order as well as jail time for Zuma over his refusal to appear before the commission.
Zuma was due to appear at the commission yesterday but his lawyers informed the commission that he would not, despite a Constitutional Court order.
On Monday Judge Zondo noted that the apex court had ruled that Zuma was legally obliged to comply with the summonses of the commission despite his review application, adding that the former president had failed to make his case before the Concourt on the matter.
Judge Zondo said the commission took Zuma’s snub seriously as it could create chaos and lawlessness if it was allowed to continue.
Carl Niehaus, uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) spokesperson, on Monday said in response to Judge Zondo that the Deputy Chief justice was biased.
Niehaus addressed the media ‒ as part of the Gauteng branch of the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) forces grouping which supports Zuma ‒ and said Zuma was being targeted.
“His bias towards and constant targeting of president Zuma is blatantly clear. The manner in which he called press conferences to attack president Zuma when he was unable to attend the hearing of the commission because of illness, while he treated Pravin Gordhan with the utmost deference and respect when he also did not attend the hearing, was shocking,” said Niehaus.
On Monday Judge Zondo described Zuma’s continued defiant stance against the commission and the order of the highest court in the land as a pity, because as a former head of state he had sworn allegiance to the Constitution.
“It would be a pity if anybody did it, but that it was done by a former president of the Republic, someone who twice stood before the nation and took an oath that he would uphold the Constitution of the Republic and protect it, is a great pity,” he said.
Zondo said many ordinary South Africans would not respect the rule of law and the work of the judiciary if Zuma’s conduct was allowed.
“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,” he said.
The Gauteng RET branch also issued a statement on Monday saying it concurs with the MKMVA that Zuma has to be defended as he was being persecuted for his radical economic transformation stance. It said it would seek to explain its stance to ANC members in branches.
“As members of the Gauteng RET President Zuma Support Group, who are active members of the ANC, we will make it our duty ‒ together with all other progressive forces that we are aligned with ‒ to explain to ANC members in our branches, and also the broad masses of people throughout our country, that there is not only one side to the story … but that strong ethical and revolutionary principles inform them,” it said.
As the news broke that the Zondo Commission wants the court to jail Zuma for his failure to appear before it as summoned, one of Zuma’s sons, Edward, told the media gathered outside the Nkandla home that the move does not shake them. He said they were still clear that he will not appear before the commission even if it means he has to be jailed.
Meanwhile, the ANC in KZN is still hopeful that Zuma can be persuaded to change his mind and respect the rule of law. KZN ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala has 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.
“While we take note of the reservations raised by former president Zuma, we also believe that the national leadership and provincial officials will be able to engage the former president on these issues. 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.
“But also, in engaging with the former president, we must ensure that his rights are not undermined … by anything, including state organs. Therefore, the two are quite important and as the provincial leadership we are going to continue engaging with former president Zuma to ensure that we reason on them to find each other.
“We cannot undermine the fact that this matter will definitely have an effect on the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and in the country. Therefore we need to handle it with sobriety and with a sense of preserving the law but at the same ensuring that the rights of individuals are protected.”