The State Capture Commission of Inquiry will open a criminal case against former president Jacob Zuma for failing to appear before it in January and will consider further action should Zuma fail to obey the summons issued for his next appearance this month.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo instructed the secretary of the commission, Professor Itumeleng Mosala, to have the case opened against Zuma, the inquiry said in a statement on Tuesday night.
The commission had served Zuma with a summons to appear before it during the week of 18 to 22 January 2021. His next appearance is scheduled from 15 to 19 February 2021.
On Monday, Zuma said in a statement issued by his foundation that he would not cooperate with the commission, despite a ruling by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) last week compelling him to do so.
The former president said he did not fear being arrested and convicted for defying the apex court.
The commission has criticised him for refusing to adhere to the ConCourt’s order, saying he “considers himself to be above the law and the Constitution.”
“The Constitution expressly provides that an order or decision issued by a Court binds all persons to whom it applies. Therefore, Mr Zuma is, in terms of the Constitution, expressly bound by the order of the Constitutional Court. Mr Zuma’s decision that he will defy the order of the country’s highest court and the summons of the Commission is completely unacceptable in a constitutional democracy such as ours,” the commission said.
The statement added: “This is particularly so when the person making such a decision is a former President of the country who should be exemplary in upholding the rule of law and the Constitution. (It is to be noted that, while Mr Zuma refuses to comply with the Constitution and to obey the order of the Constitutional Court on the one hand, he continues to enjoy the benefits that the Constitution grants to all former Presidents in terms of his pension and other benefits paid for by the taxpayers). It seems that Mr Zuma considers himself to be above the law and the Constitution. The Commission reiterates that in terms of the Constitution everyone is equal before the law. This constitutional guarantee must be given effect to.”
The commission said it was concerned about Zuma’s decision to defy the order of the ConCourt and the summons issued. This, the commission said, “displays a complete disregard for the rights and interests that South Africans have in obtaining comprehensive responses from him to a lot of evidence regarding state capture, corruption and fraud that concern him and others connected with him that relate to his terms of office as President of the country which have been led in the Commission over the past three years.”
Should Zuma carry out his vow not to appear before the inquiry on 15 February, the commission said it will announce on that day what further action it will take.