Former president Jacob Zuma appears resigned to his fate, saying that he was waiting to “face the sentence” from the Constitutional Court after his defiance of its order to appear before the state capture commission.
In a scathing statement on Monday night — in which he also launched a volley of attacks on commission chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, and broadsided President Cyril Ramaphosa by saying some judges helped him hide “what on the face of it seem to be bribes obtained to win an internal ANC election” — Zuma said that the highest court in the land had stripped him of his constitutional rights.
He said many in the judiciary had “long left their constitutional station to join political battles”, and his stance was not undermining the constitution — but “rather to vindicate it”.
Zuma continued that, during the commission’s hearing on Monday, an “unprovoked” Zondo “decided to propagate some political propaganda against me”.
“In my absence he and Pretorius SC [the commission’s legal team boss, advocate Paul Pretorius] decided on what they have always sought to do, [to] turn all the narratives against me into evidence. In his long-prepared speech, Pretorius SC presented what Deputy Chief Justice Zondo literally called evidence against me. Realising that they had forfeited the opportunity to present the evidence to me, they did what has become their hallmark at the commission in making submissions to each other and playing politics to influence public opinion.
“His [Zondo’s] conduct today fortifies my resolve and belief that he has always sought to prejudice me. The Deputy Chief Justice concluded by saying my contempt constitutes grounds for him to approach the Constitutional Court to seek a sentence.
“Of course he will get it. I am not certain that ordinarily that is how contempt proceedings would commence, but I have accepted that Deputy Chief Justice Zondo and due process and the law are estranged.
“Now that it seems that my role in the Commission has come to an end, I wait to face the sentence to be issued by the Constitutional Court.
“No amount of intimidation or blackmail will change my position as I firmly believe that we should never allow for the establishment of a judiciary in which justice, fairness and due process are discretionary and are exclusively preserved for certain litigants and not others,” he said.
In the 12-page document, Zuma attacked Zondo for having “displayed questionable judicial integrity, independence and open-mindedness required in an investigation of this magnitude”.
“I stand by my reservations and that the commission was conceptualised as part of the campaign and sponsored multisectoral collaboration to remove me from office,” said Zuma. He added that the commission’s approach to the Constitutional Court came despite him taking on review its ruling on his application for Zondo to recuse himself.
“This calculated stratagem was to frustrate my chances of even challenging their subpoenas in our courts. The commission obviously ran to seek a licence to act with impunity. I still persist that there was no basis or dispute necessitating the commission to approach the Constitutional Court and that there was no factual basis for presumption that I would defy the subpoena. I have already presented myself to the Commission on two occasions when called upon to do so.
“Fed with absolute lies, the Constitutional Court assumed that I or my legal team had threatened that I would defy or refuse to answer. You only have to peruse the records of the date of the recusal application to know that my legal team was at pains to suggest a responsible way forward. The submission by the commission that a threat was made that I would defy or refuse to answer is a blatant falsehood fabricated on behalf of the commission and entertained by the judges of the Constitutional Court,” he said.
Zuma also slated the ConCourt’s decision to make a cost order against him, saying this was part of a campaign to “diminish my constitutional right to approach courts”.
“The Constitutional Court went further, accepting as a fact, the commission’s submissions that I had a constitutional duty to account to it (for the wrongdoing). I have followed the evidence of many witnesses at the commission, including those alleged to have implicated me and elected that none of them had any case of substance against me.
“However, the commission sought to deliver me at all costs and in this endeavour is prepared to break every rule of justice and fairness.
“It is that type of judicial conduct that I protest against, not our law or our constitution. It is not the authority of the Constitutional Court that I reject, but its abuse by a few judges. It is not our law that I defy, but a few lawless judges who have left their constitutional post for political expediency. I respect the law and have subjected myself even to its abuse for the past 20 years. I have presented myself to the Zondo Commission twice and therefore there was no factual justification for the order given by the Constitutional Court. None whatsoever,” said Zuma.
The former president also turned his attention to those who have slated him for the decision to ignore the Constitutional Court’s ruling.
“The debate has tended to focus on me, with many suggesting that I regard myself as above the law or that I do not recognise our constitution and our law. They know as well as I do, that is not the case. Some have argued that if I do not appear before the Zondo commission I must be jailed or stripped of presidential benefits or pension.
“Well, for the record, I am the one that suggested that I do not mind defending myself against the sanction that accompanies my principled stance. Second, it should naturally please them that, should I fail to defend myself before the relevant contempt forum, I will face jail term.
“The suggestion that I would be enticed with pension and benefits to abandon my principled stance against what I see as bias by a few in the judiciary, can only come from people who believe that money can buy everything. When I joined the ANC and fought for democracy, I did not do so for money and benefits. This, to me, is a foreign tendency to some of us who have been freedom fighters,” he said.
As part of his missive, Zuma said judges appeared to be targeting him and playing politics — including benefiting Ramaphosa, who went up against and beat Zuma’s preferred candidate for the ANC presidency, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in December 2017.
“We sit with some judges who have assisted the incumbent president [Ramaphosa] to hide from society what on the face of it seem to be bribes obtained to win an internal ANC election. We sit with some judges who sealed those records simply because such records may reveal that some of them, while presiding in our courts, have had their hands filled with the proverbial 30 pieces of silver,” Zuma said.
“I protest against our black, red and green robes, dressing up some individuals that have long betrayed the constitution and their oath of office. It is those who allow it and look the other way that must do some reflection. You do not have to like me to do this reflection. It is a choice we must make because this country and our law will and must outlive Jacob Zuma.
“Finally, I restate that my statement is no breach of the law. It is a protest against some in the judiciary that have sold their souls and departed from their oath of office. It is my respect for the law that obliges me to reject the abuse of law and judicial office for political purposes. The law I respect, its abuse I will not,” he said.