ConCourt judgment unlikely to have a bearing on Jacob Zuma's life - for now

Friday's ruling may become a stumbling block should the court accede to a challenge by the opposition DA to have the medical parole overturned.

17 September 2021 - 18:55
Former president Jacob Zuma . File photo.
Former president Jacob Zuma . File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Volksblad/Mlungisi Louw

The Constitutional Court may have rejected the application by former president Jacob Zuma to rescind its decision to sentence him to 15 months in prison, but the latest judgment is likely to have little bearing on his life - at least for now.

This is the view of political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana, which is partly supported by Zuma's own spokesperson, Mzwanele Manyi.

The ConCourt on Friday ruled against the application by the former president to rescind its decision that Zuma serve jail time for contempt of court for failing to appear before the Zondo commission and answer to  allegations of state capture, as directed by the apex court.

Both Ndletyana and Manyi were in agreement that the medical parole granted to Zuma by correctional services director-general Arthur Fraser earlier this month meant that the decision of the court had little bearing on Zuma's life.

However, Friday's ruling may become a stumbling block should the court accede to a challenge by the opposition DA to have the medical parole overturned.

In a majority judgment, the ConCourt found that Zuma did not meet the requirements of a rescission application.

“In any event this is just moot. It does not mean anything, really, because [Zuma is] out on medical parole. This is just to soil the jurisprudence. That's all that this thing is going to do. It's going to soil the jurisprudence of this country,” said Manyi when contacted by TimesLIVE on Friday.

He, however, expressed concern that the former president would still be left with a criminal record as a result of the ConCourt judgment.

Ndletyana said the judgment would remain purely academic unless the DA wins in its application against the Fraser decision.

“. It has an academic value because it has no bearing on whether or not he [Zuma] returns to prison. It does not free him, certainly, but it has a little bit of a bearing on whether or not he remains on medical parole.

“Whether or not he returns to prison rests purely on the challenge that the DA has presented to court challenging Arthur Fraser's decision to grant him parole. If the courts agree with the DA, it would mean JZ goes back to prison.

“I guess for now it doesn't have a bearing. Had the court decided to rescind the judgment, it would mean that the DA doesn't have a case. Its ramifications will be felt later and only if the court decides in favour of the DA. It would then mean that his sentence is still on and he must go back to jail,” said Ndletyana.

Constitutional law expert Pierre De Vos said he did not expect Zuma to succeed in his application to have the earlier judgment of the ConCourt rescinded.  

“The fact that the rescission application was rejected is completely unsurprising because the law, as it stands, the application was always going to be stillborn,” said De Vos.

He said Zuma would have had to convince the ConCourt that the failure to take part in the original proceedings was not really his choice and he could not do that because he said at the time of the case it was his choice.

“Then he would have to show that there was a blatant error of law so that the existing law was completely wrongly applied which is very difficult with the Constitutional Court,” said De Vos. 

He said the majority of the justices in the ConCourt stuck with the law and that was a good thing for the country.