As South Africa waits to hear from Jacob Zuma on what he believes his sentence should be for contempt of court, due today in the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) yesterday dealt a more than R16 million blow to the former president. The SCA yesterday dismissed his appeal against the court orders obtained by the DA and EFF that he not be covered for his legal fees by the State Attorney. The order dates back to when Zuma faced prosecution in 2006 on the corruption charges he now faces. Going back to 2003 when Schabir Shaik…
As South Africa waits to hear from Jacob Zuma on what he believes his sentence should be for contempt of court, due today in the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) yesterday dealt a more than R16 million blow to the former president.
The SCA yesterday dismissed his appeal against the court orders obtained by the DA and EFF that he not be covered for his legal fees by the State Attorney.
The order dates back to when Zuma faced prosecution in 2006 on the corruption charges he now faces.
Going back to 2003 when Schabir Shaik was arrested, the court said: “Somewhat surprisingly, Mr Zuma was not indicted together with Mr Shaik (and his corporate entities).”
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“To have granted Mr Zuma a blank cheque to pay private lawyers is egregious,” a full SCA bench noted in its judgment.
“A web of maladministration appears to have made that possible. Many of the payments have no asserted legal basis whatsoever and aside from Mr Zuma, there has been no attempt by any of the other respondents who were cited in the review applications, to defend them.
“Mr Zuma has been significantly enriched by those payments,” the SCA said.
When it came to reflecting its displeasure at remarks by Zuma’s legal team that the presiding judges were “biased or that they were not open-minded, impartial or fair”, the court did not hold back.
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“The allegations were made with a reckless disregard for the truth and persisted in during argument,” the SCA found.
“They ought not to have been made at all,” it continued, before slamming Zuma with a punitive costs order.
Contempt of court
Given the ConCourt’s directive to Zuma to be his own executioner if he is found guilty of contempt, advocate James Grant said the warning bells were tolling for Zuma.
Noting it was the first time the ConCourt had dealt with a contempt of court matter, let alone contempt of its own court, Grant said it was still a criminal procedure and one would expect the ConCourt to operate by the rules of criminal procedure.
“Those rules do not permit a court to reach out to an accused who has deliberately refused to appear before it and made no attempt to put a story before court, except to continue with his attack on the court,” Grant said.
“The very fact they are reaching out to him and bending over backwards to try to show they have done everything to get his side of the story before they impose a clearly harsh sentence.”
Zondo under fire, again
However, with Jesse Duarte firmly in his corner, Zuma may be able to turn to her for assistance.
A recording of Duarte emerged yesterday of her again questioning the integrity of the Zondo Commission.
The first time she apologised for her op-ed on the Zondo Commission in Daily Maverick when she said Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo behaved “as if he has no understanding of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa”.
Laying her apology to waste, in yesterday’s more than two minute clip, Duarte said the commission appeared to have evolved into a court of law and was no longer a judicial commission of inquiry.
“It’s not like we can’t see what is wrong with Zondo, and the president in his opening statement [speaks] about the machinations at the commission and that is because we ourselves have looked at those machinations. For example, the fact that it has turned into a court, it’s no longer a commission. They have almost a prosecutorial attitude towards people,” she apparently said.
“Personally, I believe that it is absolutely not a good thing for comrade Zuma to do given the personal [and] historical antagonism that exists between them. And the unfortunate way in which judge Zondo presented himself after he presided, as comrade Zuma said, over his own case,” Duarte reportedly said.
However, as much as Duarte may be grist to Zuma’s mill, the erstwhile president still has to make it past Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who Duarte insulted for his religious beliefs.
As a judge, Mogoeng may be required to rise above insults, but as a human and one currently on trial for his religious statements, the remarks will be smarting.
Given Zuma’s predilection for ignoring the Constitutional Court in that he didn’t appear at his contempt hearing, nor did he file opposing papers, Zuma may be skating on thin ice after the SCA found his legal team insulted the court.
Of course, whether or not he still has a legal team after the SCA ruling remains to be seen. However it is likely Zuma will approach, yes, the ConCourt to overturn the SCA decision.
What a tangled weave Zuma weaves and he may be handed time behind bars to practice his knitting fairly soon.
Zuma’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, had not responded to requests for comment by the time of going to press.
Additional reporting by Thapelo Lekabe.