Johannesburg - The commission of inquiry into state capture has accused former president Jacob Zuma of waging a malicious political campaign against it, the Constitutional Court and the entire judiciary.
Arguments in the commission’s urgent bid to have Zuma jailed for contempt of court for ignoring the January 2021 Constitutional Court order compelling him to honour the inquiry’s summons and directives were heard on Thursday.
Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, for the commission, told the apex court that Zuma was not even represented in the matter to complain about the possible infringement to his freedom of speech for the claims he made against the judiciary.
”He is quite happy that he has made his remarks because they fall into the category of political campaigns,” he argued.
Ngcukaitobi was responding to Justice Leona Theron’s questions about whether or not the apex court would be impinging on Zuma’s right to freedom of speech if it took what he has publicly said about the court and the judiciary in general as aggravating circumstances.
”There is no one who is entitled to falsely and untruthfully insult the Constitutional Court. No one is entitled to say judges have received money from (President Cyril) Ramaphosa,” he said.
Ngcukaitobi was referring to widely publicised claims that some judges were in the payroll of Ramaphosa’s CR17 ANC presidential campaign.
According to Ngcukaitobi, Zuma’s utterances were not criticism or debate but plain insults, false, unfounded and cannot be justified.
He said no one is entitled to embark on ad hominem attacks on people who are doing their work honestly, diligently and to the best of their knowledge.
”If this is not stopped there will be discredit to the court and the institution of the judiciary. This is not a case about freedom of speech, this is a case about a deliberate campaign to discredit the court and it must be seen as such. Period,” Ngcukaitobi said.
He said that in order to show people that they should not be allowed to wage political campaigns against judges, particularly when those campaigns are based on falsehoods, a period of two years’ imprisonment, which is serious period, is completely deserved based on the facts before the court.
”Zuma should pay punitive costs for acting with malice. The utterances that he has made are malicious utterances. Acting without any facts, Zuma completely disregards the evidence, he just launches an attack that is completely bereft of facts,” he said.
Acting Justice Dhaya Pillay asked: “So Mr Ngcukaitobi, what you are seeking is for the court to set a precedent against waging lawfare through the Constitutional Court and other courts?”
Ngcukaitobi cautioned that lawfare could in fact lose meaning if it is attached to the type of behaviour shown by Zuma.
He highlighted that what the commission was asking for was that people should not wage political campaigns based on falsehoods against members of the judiciary with no consequences and that a former president should not do that.
Judgment was reserved.
Meanwhile, the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association’s (MKMVA) planned a protest action in support of Zuma outside the Concourt.
But fewer than 30 members, mostly young women, joined MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus wearing Congress of South African Students T-shirts, while others donned ANC T-shirts with the words “Bekezela Msholozi” (persevere Msholozi) written on them.
Members of the newly formed political party Action SA were also present. They were in support of the commission’s quest to have Zuma jailed for two years for defying the Concourt’s ruling.
Despite the downpours which hampered their campaign, Niehaus was adamant that it would be unfair for the Concourt to impose a prison sentence for Zuma.
“We came to the Constitutional Court to express our unhappiness with the commission and especially Judge Zondo, for his unfair treatment of president Zuma. Zuma made it clear that he would not get a fair hearing. I can’t prejudge the outcome of the Concourt but I sincerely hope that they would not impose a prison sentence,” he said.