Former president Jacob Zuma is guilty of contempt of court for failure to comply with an order of the Constitutional Court to honour a summons to appear before the state capture commission, the apex court found on Tuesday.
Handing down the court’s decision on behalf of the majority, justice Sisi Khampepe said it is the lofty and lonely work of the judiciary to uphold, protect and apply the constitution and the law at all costs.
The court ordered that Zuma be sentenced to a 15-month jail term.
“The only appropriate sanction is a direct unsuspended order of imprisonment,” Khampepe said.
The court was handing down judgment in the application by the commission of inquiry into state capture that Zuma be held in contempt of court for failing to comply with the court’s earlier order in January to obey the commission’s summons to appear and give evidence from February 15 to 19.
Zuma did not honour that summons.
After Zuma’s failure to appear, the commission launched contempt proceedings in the Constitutional Court.
The commission also sought an order that Zuma be sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for contempt.
The judgment comes three months after the court heard the unopposed application by the commission.
In April, before the hearing of the contempt application, the court issued directions that Zuma must file an affidavit addressing what penalty the court should impose if it were to find him in contempt of court.
Zuma did not oppose these contempt of court proceedings and did not participate in the matter.
Instead he wrote to chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng saying he would not participate as a conscientious objection.
When the commission applied for Zuma to be held in contempt, its counsel Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC argued that only imprisonment would vindicate the highest court’s authority.
by Ernest Mabuza