Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

Cele’s ‘nonsensical letter doesn’t apply, police should arrest Zuma by Wednesday midnight’

State capture commission advocate says Zuma was not entitled to refuse to hand himself over to the police.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC argued in the Pietermaritzburg High Court that former president Jacob Zuma must be arrested by midnight on Wednesday should he fail to present himself to the police.

READ MORE: Zuma case riddled with doubts as judge expresses concern over jurisdiction

Before the 30-minute lunch break, Ngcukaitobi said the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture wanted Zuma’s application to have his arrest stayed dismissed with costs.


The Constitutional Court last Tuesday ruled in favour of the state capture commission’s contempt case it brought against Zuma over his refusal to take the stand and answer questions, despite the same court having previously ordered him to do so.

Zuma was slapped with 15 months behind bars and given five days to hand himself over to the police. In the event he didn’t – which is how things have now panned out – the court ordered police to ensure Zuma was delivered to prison within three days after that.

In a last ditch effort to try and avoid time behind bars, Zuma’s lawyers have now turned to the courts. Late last week, they approached the Constitutional Court with a rescission application. At the same time, they also approached the high court.

‘No jurisdiction’

Presiding high court Judge Bhekisisa Mnguni began hearing arguments on Tuesday in Zuma’s application.

During the proceedings, Mnguni pressed the former president’s legal representative, advocate Dali Mpofu SC, whether the high court had the jurisdiction to interfere with a higher court’s order.

Asked by Mnguni why he had not approached the Constitutional Court to stay its order, Mpofu said Zuma was unable to fund “unnecessary litigation”.

After two-and-a-half hours of Mpofu presenting his arguments on jurisdictions, among other issues, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi. representing the state capture commission, said the court had three clear-cut grounds to dismiss Zuma’s application with costs.

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Resuming after the lunch break, Ngcukaitobi argued the high court had no jurisdiction to hear Zuma’s application.

“Your lordship I already pointed out the anomaly that if one looks at text Section 173 of the Constitution… inherent power is the heading. The wording is the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and the High Courts have the inherent power to protect and regulate their own process and to develop the common law, taking into account the interest of justice.

“Your lordship pointed to this ‘own process’. So you do have inherent power, but inherent power over your own process not the process of the Constitutional Court,” Ngcukaitobi said.

Ngcukaitobi referenced a separate ruling by the Appeal Court, which stated that the Constitution “does not give any of the courts mentioned therein, including the High Court, carte blanche to meddle or interfere in the affairs of inferior courts”.

“Remember this my lord, the Constitutional Court cannot interfere in your own affairs. It can only do so on appeal. You your lordship cannot interfere with the Magistrates Court in their own processes… you can only do so on appeal.

“If you cannot interere with the functioning of an inferior court how much more with a superior court,” he said.

‘Many alternatives’

Ngcukaitobi further said Mnguni should dismiss Zuma’s application as the case was being heard in the wrong court.

However, he said, the former president can still approach the Constitutional Court to suspend the execution of the arrest orders against him. 

READ MORE: Jacob Zuma, like Al Capone, was tripped up by ‘the small crimes’

“So [Zuma] cannot complain if your lordship dismisses the application on the basis that there is no jurisdiction. He still has today, he still has tomorrow to approach the Constitutional Court for the stay or suspension. He can even do it by way of letter… he has many, many alternatives,” he said.

Zuma’s arrest

On Zuma’s potential arrest, Ngcukaitobi said if Zuma did not present himself to the authorities by midnight on Wednesday, the police must arrest him regardless of the letter Police Minister Bheki Cele sent to the Constitutional Court.

Cele on Monday evening said they would “hold further actions” and not comply with the Constitutional Court’s instruction to arrest Zuma for failing to present himself to the police to begin serving his sentence.

ALSO READ: Zuma’s Concourt claims at best misleading, at worst plain lies

Ngcukaitobi said Cele would be breaking the law by not arresting Zuma, describing Cele’s letter as “nonsensical”, further adding that the police were oblige to carry out the Constitutional Court’s order.

The advocate said the fact that the Constitutional Court’ would hear his rescission application was no reason for Zuma not to comply with the order.

He added that Zuma was never entitled to refuse to hand himself over to police.

Additional reporting by Bernadette Wicks