Zuma, supporters, foundation, legal team mum after legal setbacks, deadline for Concourt
Durban - There was deafening silence from former president Jacob Zuma, his foundation, his supporters and legal team after he suffered another legal setback at the Supreme Court of Appeal.
On Tuesday, the court upheld a North Gauteng High Court ruling that stripped him of state funding for his upcoming corruption trial that emanates from the arms deal of the late 1990s.
All this happened while today Zuma is facing a deadline to tell the Constitutional Court what sentence he feels should be meted out for defying its ruling that he should appear before the Zondo Commission.
Like on Monday, Zuma’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, and 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.
In yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, the court found Zuma should repay the R15.3 million the state paid for him to fight off his corruption trial.
The legal battle over the funding started in early 2018 when the DA and later the EFF wanted President Cyril Ramaphosa to stop funding the Zuma trial, as they argued it was unlawful.
The funding was approved by the Thabo Mbeki government in 2006 on the advice that Zuma’s alleged offences happened while he was in office and he was entitled to state assistance. However, the agreement sanctioned by the State Attorney was if he lost, he would have to refund the state.
But the apex court said that was unlawful and the junior court in Pretoria was correct in its decision.
“In the result, the appeal must fail and it is accordingly dismissed with costs, including those of two counsel, to be paid on the attorney and client scale,” ruled the judgment signed off by Judge VM Ponnan.
As Zuma’s legal woes mount each day, the Supreme Court also slapped him with punitive costs for accusing judges of being biased, but not producing any evidence to back the claim.
“There is nothing on the record to sustain the inference that the presiding judges in this matter (or at a more generalised level in other matters involving Mr Zuma) were biased, or that they were not open-minded, impartial or fair. The allegations were made with a reckless disregard for the truth and persisted during argument. They ought not to have been made at all. But, having been made, they ought, in response to the invitation from the EFF, to have been retracted.
“To have persisted in the unjustified criticism of not just the high court, but more generally, the judiciary is plainly deserving of censure. Little wonder then that the EFF submits that Mr Zuma should be penalised with a punitive costs order as a mark of this court’s displeasure and to vindicate the integrity of the high court and the judiciary. A submission, for the reasons given, with which I am in agreement,” the court said in the 28-page ruling.
Elsewhere in political circles yesterday, Zuma’s defiance of the Zondo Commission took another turn when it emerged that during his March 8 meeting with the ANC top six, he got backing from deputy secretary-general, Jessie Duarte.
In leaked audio, Duarte told the meeting's participants the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, discredited itself by adopting a prosecutorial posture instead of being a commission looking for facts to use when finalising its report.
“What is concerning is that comrade Zuma articulates the flaws that we have in the judiciary very very well. It is not that we can’t see what is wrong with Zondo. For example, it has turned into a court of law, it is no longer a commission. They almost have a prosecutorial attitude towards people who come to give evidence,” Duarte was heard saying.
“Going to the commission under Zondo, personally, I believe absolutely it is not a good thing for comrade Zuma to do, given the personal and historical antagonism that exists between them (Zuma and Zondo).”
Duarte did not comment when asked about the content of the recordings.
Efforts were made to offer a right to reply to the Reverend Mbuyiselo Stemela, the spokesperson of the commission and he had not commented at the time this report was compiled.
Also not commenting at the time of the report was Nathi Mncube, the spokesperson of the Office of the Chief Justice which conducts oversight on judges and their work.