Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: SANDILE NDLOVU
Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: SANDILE NDLOVU

As parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are gripped by violence, looting and civil unrest, Jacob Zuma’s lawyer Dali Mpofu argued that the former president be released from jail pending a Constitutional Court decision.

Zuma is seeking immediate release from Estcourt prison, pending the court’s final decision in the case of rescission he brought in a bid to reverse the court’s finding against him.

The apex court began hearing arguments for and against rescinding its order of Tuesday June 29. All 11 judges who presided over that matter found Zuma in contempt of court. The majority sentenced him to 15 months in prison.

Mpofu argued on Monday the court should backtrack on its decision. Mpofu said: “Former president Jacob Zuma, as we speak, is sitting in a cell somewhere in Estcourt where he should not be. 

“For as long as this injustice is corrected and remedied, then the doors of the Estcourt prison must be swung open so that, like any other accused who is the victim of a constitutional limitation, the processes that should be followed should be followed.”

Judge Sisi Khampepe led the bench, which excluded acting chief justice Raymond Zondo, who chairs the state capture inquiry probing corruption and fraud that Zuma has evaded. Mpofu said that if the finding of contempt was correct, and he did not necessarily accept this, it did not negate Zuma’s constitutional right to not be detained without trial. He argued the top court exceeded its power.

Judge Nonkosi Mhlantla asked Mpofu about Zuma’s decision to abstain from participating in the case, which led to his imprisonment. “So you say it was limited where a person has been given an opportunity and a person decided to reject that opportunity?” she said. Mpofu agreed.

Judge Zukisa Tshiqi said Zuma was invited to comment on mitigation of sentence and he “deliberately did not say something on that”. She added, “It is not as if he wasn’t given an opportunity.”

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, representing the commission , said there was no apology or remorse from Zuma. “He has told you many times he will not appear before a biased chairperson,” said Ngcukaitobi.

Judge Chris Jafta penned the unanimous judgment compelling Zuma to comply with summonses, submit documents and provide material answers to questions posed. Ngcukaitobi told Jafta: “You said that all Mr Zuma was required to do is to account for his period in office. That’s all he was ever required to do. That’s all. All of this could have been avoided if only he had heeded your own judgment, which did not impose impossible obligations, simple obligations of accounting for his term in office.

“Today, we have persisting contempt. You are told to revisit your order. No contrition, no apology, nothing. Just brazen contempt,” Ngcukaitobi concluded, highlighting a degree of urgency in deciding the matter and providing certainty in the dispute.

batese@businesslive.co.za

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