Former president Jacob Zuma has missed his Constitutional Court deadline to file a response to the state capture inquiry contempt application that could see him facing jail time – a strong indication that he will not oppose the historic case.
In directions issued on 1 March, the country’s highest court gave Zuma and police authorities until the end of Monday to “file answering affidavits, if any”.
News24 has established from both the Constitutional Court and the State Attorney’s office that, by the close of business today, Zuma’s lawyers had failed to file any such affidavit. Nor have they filed any formal notice that the former president would oppose or abide by the court’s decision in the inquiry’s case.
They have also not written to the court to indicate their stance on the case.
The Zondo commission wants the Constitutional Court to order law enforcement authorities to “take all steps as may be required to give effect” to any order given by the court for Zuma’s arrest and detention for contempt. The police and Hawks have not filed any notice to oppose that application.
Zuma stands accused of repeatedly defying the inquiry summons issued against him, walking out of the commission on 19 November and making false claims of corruption against the judiciary.
In court papers, inquiry secretary Itumelng Mosala argues that the two-year sentence that the commission is seeking against Zuma is appropriate, because he can be shown to have committed multiple acts of contempt against the Inquiry and would potentially face a four-and-a-half-year sentence, if he was tried in a criminal court.
The JG Zuma Foundation, meanwhile, has slammed the Zondo commission for suggesting, in its Constitutional Court contempt application against Zuma, that the country’s highest court may suspend an order that he be immediately imprisoned “if the Court is of the view that Mr Zuma should be afforded a final opportunity to comply with its order before he can be imprisoned”.
According to the foundation, this order “was openly offered by President Zuma’s legal counsel and rejected by the Commission” – an apparent claim that Zuma’s lawyers had proposed that he could return to the state capture inquiry to avoid jail time.
“While seeking to appear to maintain its hard unreasonable stance, the Commission pretends this is its original remedy when everyone knows that it is an offer they rejected as they did with all responsible proposals,” the statement adds.
This stance appears to stand in stark contrast to Zuma’s previous statements that he was ready to go to jail to defy the inquiry. But, as yet, Zuma’s lawyers have declined to respond to questions about whether he would ever agree to return and testify before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Zuma elected not to participate in the inquiry’s initial application to compel him to appear before it and answer non-incriminating questions.
This is a developing story