Former president Jacob Zuma ordered to appear before Zondo commission

Zuma’s conduct 'antithetical to our constitutional order': ConCourt judge

28 January 2021 - 10:31 By Franny Rabkin
Former president Jacob Zuma must appear before the state capture commission of inquiry, the Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday. File picture.
Former president Jacob Zuma must appear before the state capture commission of inquiry, the Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday. File picture.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The Constitutional Court has ordered former president Jacob Zuma to abide by a summons to appear before the state capture commission and give evidence before it.

The unanimous decision of the highest court means that should Zuma not appear on February 15 as per his summons, and without sufficient cause, he would not only be in breach of the Commissions Act but would be in breach of an order of the highest court in the land.

The Constitutional Court also declared that Zuma does not have the right to remain silent before the commission, but witnesses do have the privilege against self-incrimination.

In his judgment, justice Chris Jafta said the Commissions Act provided for the issuing of summons and “once a summons is issued ... and served on a prospective witness, that witness is obliged to comply”.

Yet Zuma had “from as far back as 28 September 2020 ... shown an intention not to appear before the commission for purposes of testifying,” said Jafta. Instead, he “made it quite clear that he would not comply with the process issued by the commission and dared the chairperson to take whatever steps he considered appropriate,” said the judgment.

Jafta said Zuma’s conduct was “antithetical to our constitutional order”.

“We must remember that this is a republic of laws where the constitution is supreme. Disobeying its laws amounts to a direct breach of the rule of law, one of the values underlying the constitution and which forms part of the supreme law.

“In our system, no-one is above the law.”

On granting the commission direct access to the Constitutional Court, Jafta said the state capture commission was to blame for the urgency with which it had to approach the ConCourt so late in the day. However, it was not just the commission’s interests at stake; there was also a compelling public interest.

He said the allegations being investigated by the commission were extremely serious.

“If established, they would constitute a huge threat to our nascent and fledgling democracy. It is in the interest of all South Africans, the respondent [Zuma] included, that these allegations are put to rest once and for all.”

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