South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma, has been found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months in jail, by the country’s Constitutional Court.
Justice Sisi Khampepe read out the judgment on Tuesday, which found that Zuma was fully aware of the consequences of his actions and willfully defied the court’s order to appear before the Zondo Commission. Said Khampepe:
The majority holds that a coercive order which uses the threat of imprisonment to ensure compliance will be both futile and inappropriate.
Justice Khampepe said there was “no sound basis” for Zuma to claim that he was being unfairly treated. She said:
The majority finds itself with no choice but to find that this kind of incalcitrance cannot be tolerated.
She pointed out that Zuma’s case was exceptional because of his position as a former president as well as his criticism of the judiciary.
The Constitutional Court judges strongly condemned Zuma’s “outlandish statements” and found that the only reasonable sentence was an unsuspended sentence of 15 months imprisonment.
In December last year, the Zondo Commission, which is investigating allegations of corruption during Zuma’s nine-year rule, approached the court to ask it to compel him to appear and answer all questions posed to him.
The order was granted but Zuma decided to defy the court, alleging that the commission and the court were victimising him through exceptional and harsh treatment and that both institutions were politicising the law to his detriment.
The secretary of the commission, Professor Itumeleng Mosala, then asked the court to penalise him with contempt of court.
On the same day, Zuma issued another long statement and said that he had taken a political position not to take part in the matter because the judiciary was engaged in political battles against him.
He also said that Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo who chairs the commission was “exploiting his proximity to the Constitutional Court to protect and advance his own interests as chairperson of the commission”.
When the matter was heard on March 25 this year, advocate Tembeka Ngcukayitobi, acting on behalf of the commission, asked the court to hand down a two-year sentence.
Ngcukayitobi argued that Zuma had made serious allegations against the judiciary without any evidence to back them up.