Absconded: Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Alon Skuy
Absconded: Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Alon Skuy

There is a bleak scene in the Australian comedy Muriel’s Wedding when Betty Heslop, Muriel’s sad, put-upon mother, sets fire to the family’s dishevelled back yard and burns it to the ground. Then she takes an overdose of sleeping pills.

Her bewildered and philandering husband looks at the devastation and wonders out loud why she did it.

"Because she got sick and tired of waiting for Perry [the feckless son] to mow it," says Joanie, the daughter.

Some days the Zondo commission reminds me of Betty Heslop’s life, when it seems nothing will ever change.

Watching Jacob Zuma thumb his nose at the courts, at the law, at the put-upon citizens of this country, it’s hard not to feel the same mounting despair.

The latest episode of the telenovela of the former president’s life and works has him absconding from judge Raymond Zondo’s inquiry shortly before he was due to take the stand to face some probably awkward questions about state capture.

For a man who has previously said he will prove his innocence in court, he spends an awful lot of time trying not to do so.

The commission’s response is to lay a criminal charge against Zuma as well as apply for an order from the Constitutional Court compelling him to testify.

Zondo said Zuma’s decision to "leave without permission and in the face of a valid and binding summons is a serious matter [which] impacts on the integrity of the commission, the rule of law and public accountability".

While it looks like Zuma has run out of road, one thing he shares with outgoing US President Donald Trump is a childish petulance in refusing to concede.

This is make or break for Zondo. Is he Gary Cooper in High Noon? Morgan Freeman in Unforgiven?

Or is the commission about to become one of the former president’s doormats?

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