Durban - With a few hours left before the deadline given to him to tell the Constitutional Court what sentence he feels should be meted out for defying it, former president Jacob Zuma has kept everybody guessing on whether he will meet the deadline or continue with his non-participation stance.
On Monday Zuma’s lawyer of records in the court, Eric Mabuza, and the former president’s spokesperson, Vukile Mathabela, were not forthcoming, when asked whether Zuma will change his mind and participate in the legal process, or stick to his defiant stance that saw him telling the court to sentence him in absentia and that he would serve any sentence.
On Friday the court sent out a notice to Zuma and his legal team to file the papers by Wednesday and guide it on how to penalise him.
“The first respondent (Zuma) must file an affidavit not longer than 15 pages on or before Wednesday, April 14, on the following issues: In the event that the first respondent is found guilty of the alleged contempt of court, what constitutes the appropriate sanctions, and in the event this courts deems committal appropriate, the nature and the magnitude of the sentence that should be imposed, supported by reasons,” reads part of the Concourt instruction to Zuma.
It added that should Zuma elect to exercise his right to mitigate before he is sentenced for defying a lawful instruction to appear before the Zondo Commission to testify in December and January, then all parties involved in the matter should file their counter affidavits as well.
Meanwhile, on Monday Zuma turned 79 and his party, the ANC, associates and friends heaped birthday wishes on him.
Zuma, South Africa’s fourth democratically elected president, was born in rural Nkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal on April 12, 1942. His father was Nobhekisisa Zuma and his mother was Gcinamazwi Zuma (née Mzobe).
Attesting to his public discourse-dominating demeanour, some of Zuma’s supporters on Twitter called the day #ZumaDay and at some point the hashtag was at number one, and also in the top 10 trending South African hashtags was his clan’s name “Msholozi”.
From political circles, some of the birthday wishes for Zuma came from the ANC at national level, KZN ANC, former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, current KZN ANC chairperson and premier Sihle Zikalala, and MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus.
“We wish our president Zuma long life, strength and good health. Continue serving our people with diligence, dedication and commitment,” read a message from Luthuli House, the national headquarters of the ANC.
This was while the ANC in KZN said it wished Zuma all the best in life.
Gumede said Zuma’s work while he was in power was there for all to see and wished him a long life.
“Long live Matomela (Zuma’s other clan’s names), your work in health education, rural development and peacekeeping continues to live.Thank you for all your good work and may God keep you,” Gumede wrote on her Facebook page on Monday.
Niehaus, who has been at the forefront in the defence of Zuma, said it was shameful that at his advanced age, the former president was being persecuted by his “enemies”.
“Dear #Nxamalala wishing you a blessed 79th birthday. At your age you should be given the dignity and respect of the elderly statesman you are. You have dedicated your life to @MYANC. Yet, your enemies give you no rest. Shame on them! We are many comrades who will never forsake you!,” Niehaus wrote on Twitter.
Zikalala said Zuma was an inspiration to many.
“Happy Birthday Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. We remain inspired by your services and struggle towards liberation, development and economic emancipation. Happy Birthday – I wish you all the best,” Zikalala wrote on his Facebook page.
Other birthday messages of the day came from the rank and file of the governing party, former staff members of the Presidency who worked with Zuma, and from his sympathisers from neighbouring countries, such as the Kingdom of eSwatini.