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Legal experts weigh in on Jacob Zuma v ConCourt

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 29, 2021

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Cape Town - The Constitutional Court must set a clear precedent in that if an individual is in contempt of court and is unable to provide a reason for not attending a hearing, a sanction must be handed down.

This is according to law expert William Booth, who described former president Jacob Zuma’s pending Constitutional Court judgment as “very serious”.

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Judgment is expected to be handed down on Tuesday after Zuma failed to comply with the State Capture commission’s summons to give evidence

The commission is probing, inter alia, allegations of state capture during his nine-year presidency. Zuma failed to appear before the commission and stated that he had lost trust in the judiciary. He said he had taken a political position not to take part in the matter because the judiciary was engaged in political battles against him.

The commission’s counsel called for Zuma to receive two years’ imprisonment.

Booth said if the former president was found in contempt of court, the ConCourt would have to look at what the sanction for that would be.

“When you are in contempt of a court order it becomes a criminal case. This is a very serious matter involving someone who was in a very senior position. He was someone who should’ve set a very good example to the public.

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“A court order is one which should be complied with, unless an individual decides to oppose it and says it was wrongly granted. Otherwise, failure to comply sets the whole judicial system into disrepute if everyone can go along and not comply with orders,” said Booth.

Another law expert, Paul Hoffman, is of the opinion that the Concourt might resort to imprisonment if Zuma again fails to comply with the commission.

“Not only has he not put up any argument as to why he is not in contempt, he has compounded his contempt by ignoring directions given to him in relation to what he wants to say in mitigation.

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“The likely outcome is some form of imprisonment. It could either be imprisonment without the option of any alternative form of punishment or he could be imprisoned but avoid the imprisonment if he presents himself to the Zondo Commission to give the evidence the commission has been asking for,” said Hoffman.

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While bearing in mind that the commission asked for Zuma to be sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, Hoffman said it may be that the Concourt will say justice dictates that the object of the exercise is to get Zuma to comply with the court order that he’s in contempt of.

“If he still persists to not go to the Zondo Commission, he will be the author of his own misfortune.”

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Political Bureau

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