Johannesburg - The Hawks have distanced themselves from a decision to shackle Duduzane Zuma around his ankles when he appeared in the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Monday. Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, spokesperson for the elite crime-busting unit, said the court insisted it was standard procedure to chain Zuma.
Zuma’s ankle cuffing sparked controversy on social media, with many saying it was unwarranted because he had voluntarily reported at a police station that morning.
Facing a charge of conspiracy to offer Mcebisi Jonas, then deputy minister of finance, a R600 million bribe at the Guptas’ home in 2015, Zuma flew into the country from Dubai on Thursday, only to be briefly detained at OR Tambo International Airport. Magistrate Jeremy Jansen van Vuuren granted him bail of R100000.
Many on social media questioned if Zuma would suddenly make a run for it after handing himself over. IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa posted on Twitter: “When the justice system indulges in theatrics it compromises its own legitimacy, integrity and credibility. This leg-chaining is one such theatric. (Zuma) handed himself over, and this there was certainly no need for. Let him be prosecuted fairly.”
Mulaudzi told The Star that Hawks officers brought Zuma with no cuffs to the court from Johannesburg Central police station. “It’s not us at all. We’re not responsible for the shackling,” he said.
“People must understand that there are court orders and set operating standards at each and every court. If people saw it on TV, they would have seen that when he came to court, he was not in shackles. Unfortunately, when he got to the court, there was an instruction that he must be shackled. We also, together with his lawyer, tried to negotiate that he must not be shackled. We did not win that fight. Sadly, we were unable to convince the court not to have him in shackles.”
Mulaudzi said questions about this requirement of the court should be directed to the Department of Justice. “The guy was co-operating,” he added. “When we brought him to court, we did not see him as a flight risk. But unfortunately that instruction was given.”
Zuma wasn’t the first high- profile accused to appear at this court shackled around the ankles. The ANC’s Andile Lungisa arrived in the dock shackled in 2013 for alleged fraud and money laundering. He was acquitted. Dan Bovu, an ANC heavyweight in Joburg, was also shackled when he appeared earlier this year. He was also acquitted.
Stella and Bruce Buthelezi, a couple accused of defrauding former Kaizer Chiefs captain Jimmy Tau of R2m, were also cuffed during their first appearance last year. An official at the court told The Star that all accused appearing for the first time or arriving from the central prison are required to be shackled.
“Maybe it has to do with the building. In some courts, accused people can walk from a holding cell to a courtroom. But here they have to take lifts,” the official said.
The source said it was improper though to cuff even accused people who pose no flight risk. “It is not appropriate. In some courts, magistrates refuse to hear cases if an accused is in shackles. There has to be some freedom.”
The Department of Justice would not be drawn to comment on the court’s procedure. “You’d have to speak to the Hawks because they are the ones who do the tying,” department spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said.