Zuma, NGO heading to global bodies to seek relief as fight over polls ratchets up

Former president Jacob Zuma is taking his fight to become an MP to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Newspapers

Former president Jacob Zuma is taking his fight to become an MP to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 30, 2024


Former president Jacob Zuma and an NGO want two separate international forums to force the South African government to allow Zuma to be an MP, and are also challenging the Constitutional Court’s authority.

Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MKP) intends to approach the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The UNHRC is not a court of law but a panel of experts monitoring the implementation of the ICCPR, and South Africa has been a signatory since 1998.

In 2008, the UNHRC ruled in favour of Sri Lankan politician Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Sumanaweera Banda Dissanayake, who had been charged for contempt of that country’s constitution.

Dissanayake was found guilty of contempt of court and was sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment and was disqualified from being an elector and a member of parliament.

According to the UNHRC ruling, Dissanayake maintained that then chief justice Sarath Nanda Silva was biased against him and that the charges against him were politically motivated.

He then approached the committee, which ruled that Sri Lanka was under obligation to provide him with an adequate remedy, including compensation and the restoration of his right to vote and to be elected; and to make such changes to the law and practice as deemed necessary to avoid similar violations in the future.

“The state party is under an obligation to avoid similar violations in the future,” read the ruling.

When Zuma was jailed for contempt in 2021, he demanded that Chief Justice Raymond Zondo recuse himself from hearing his evidence at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, which Justice Zondo chaired due to a reasonable apprehension of bias.

Zuma was later jailed by the Constitutional Court for refusing to give evidence before the commission, and sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment of which he only served three months, after President Cyril Ramaphosa granted thousands of non-violent offenders remission.

In another matter, the Hola Bon Renaissance (HBR) Foundation is approaching the World Conference on Constitutional Justice (WCCJ) to complain about its grave concerns regarding egregious violations of human rights and alleged judicial malfeasance by the Constitutional Court and the judiciary of South Africa.

The WCCJ also facilitates judicial dialogue between constitutional judges on a global scale as well as the exchange of information that takes place at the world conference, further reflecting on arguments that promote the basic goals inherent to national constitutions.

In addition, these judges sometimes find themselves in situations of conflict with other state powers because of decisions they have had to hand down based on the constitutions, being part of the WCCJ provides them with a forum that not only allows them to exchange information freely with their peers but where judges from other countries can also offer moral support.

According to the HBR Foundation, the country’s Constitutional Court has perpetrated and perpetuated egregious violations of human rights including arbitrary sentencing without trial, denial of basic rights to voters, corruption and money laundering, capture by private interests, political figures, and other entities and systemic violations of the Constitution and rule of law.

They also accuse the apex court of eroding democratic principles and systems, disregard for international treaties and bilateral agreements and conflicts of interest and hearing sub-judice matters.

The foundation wants the WCCJ to take measures to protect human rights from judicial violations, hold accountable the judges of the Constitutional Court, suspend the Constitutional Court pending the outcome of its petition and present a comprehensive plan for constitutional and judicial reform.

The complaint relates to a matter before the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) by the Liberty Fighters Network (LFN) challenging Zuma’s jailing.

The ACHPR told the LFN in July last year that South Africa missed the deadline to submit its observations on admissibility and merits and promised to proceed with the consideration of the network’s communication and consider the admissibility in one of its forthcoming sessions.

The commission also noted that no evidence justifying urgent treatment of the case had been presented nor was there a formal request to grant provisional measures that had been filed.

The HBR Foundation complained that the Constitutional Court justices undermined and/or ignored the ACHPR when called to present its case brought before by South Africans.

Judicial Service Commission and Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s office were yet to respond at the time of publication.

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Sunday Independent