Police Minister Bheki Cele says the South African Police Service (SAPS) would not hesitate to arrest former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court should he fail to abide by the Constitutional Court’s (ConCourt) order on Tuesday.
The highest court in the land delivered a scathing majority judgment against Zuma in his contempt of court case lodged by the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture. The court sentenced the former president to a 15-month jail sentence after he defied its orders to appear before the commission and testify under oath.
Justice Sisi Khampepe ordered Zuma to present himself to either the police in Nkandla or in Johannesburg within five days to start serving his jail term.
Should Zuma fail to do so, the apex court ordered that the SAPS should take action in three days to arrest him.
Speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria on the country’s latest level 4 lockdown measures, Cele said the ConCourt’s judgment was clear on what the SAPS needed to do.
“The judgment made it very clear that the former president has five days to respond to the decision made by the court. The instruction is going to the national commissioner and the minister of police to act,” Cele said.
The minister refused to answer further questions on the court’s ruling, saying the police would wait for the five days to end first.
“I don’t have evidence that he will defy [the court order] for now, but we’ve been instructed by the court and the law enforcement agencies will have to act. But that matter is not on the table at the present moment. We have five days going forward,” he said.
In February, Cele visited Zuma at his Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal amid calls for the former president to comply with the state capture commission’s summons to testify before it.
The minister was initially reluctant about revealing the contents of his discussion with Zuma, saying he would only speak to the ANC’s top six leaders about the encounter.
It’s understood the meeting was in a bid to persuade Zuma to appear before the commission.
ANC response to ConCourt ruling
Meanwhile, the ANC said in a brief statement it had noted the judgment of the ConCourt and was studying it.
The governing party called on its members to remain calm during this period.
“Without doubt, this is a difficult period in the movement and we call upon our members to remain calm. The meeting of the national executive committee (NEC) this weekend will reflect on the implications and consequences of the judgment,” ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said.
“We further reaffirm our commitment to upholding the rule of law and fulfilling the aspirations of our constitutional democracy.”
At the same time, DA leader John Steenhuisen welcomed the ruling, saying Zuma should hand himself over to authorities.
“This is one of the most important judgments in the history of our democracy because it confirms that no one can stand above the law in South Africa. Not even a former president who still enjoys strong support in the ruling party,” Steenhuisen said.
“We call on Mr Zuma to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies and to hand himself over to begin to serve his sentence.”