The former president now runs the very real risk of being locked up for contempt, but this might suit him perfectly as he tries to paint himself as a martyr for radical economic transformation.
While the commission has yet to comment on Zuma’s latest show of defiance against it, experts and analysts say prison time is now a very real threat for him.
The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) last week ordered Zuma to cooperate with the commission but he has since responded with the proverbial middle finger and in a statement on Monday, intimated he would not be appearing before Zondo – who’s chairing the proceedings.
He could now be facing the possibility of contempt charges – in addition to charges under the Commission’s Act.
But on Monday Zuma was undeterred and said he would provide “no further co-operation”.
“If this stance is considered to be a violation of their law, then let their law take its course. I do not fear being arrested. I do not fear being convicted nor do I fear being incarcerated,” he said.
After the commission’s previous efforts to get him back into the witness box – following a brief appearance in 2019 – had come to nought, Zondo eventually subpoenaed Zuma late last year.
After he staged a dramatic walkout, he was again subpoenaed. This time around though, the commission also approached the ConCourt for an order compelling him to comply.
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Zuma has now once again claimed he is the victim of political persecution – accusing the commission of having created “a special and different approach to specifically deal with Zuma” and the ConCourt, of having followed its lead.
He even likened himself to struggle hero Robert Sobukwe – who was detained for years under laws the apartheid regime designed specifically for him.
The apartheid government enacted the Sobukwe Clause in 1963, with the express purpose of empowering itself to extend Sobukwe’s detention indefinitely, with his being the only case in which the clause was ever invoked.
“The parallels are too similar to ignore given that Sobukwe was specifically targeted for his ideological stance on liberation. I, on the other hand, am the target of propaganda, vilification and falsified claims against me for my stance on the transformation of this country and its economy,” Zuma charged.
He said he had been left “with no other alternative but to be defiant against injustice as I did against the apartheid government” – a nod to his incarceration as a political prisoner during apartheid.
Advocate James Grant – who specialises in criminal law – said Zuma could in theory be charged under either the Commissions Act or for contempt.
But Grant also said there was an even more direct route open to the commission.
In terms of the Commissions Act, commissions enjoy the same powers as the courts to summons witnesses. And in terms of the Superior Courts Act, a witness who refuses to comply with a summons can be detained for up to eight days at a time, until he or she does complies.
“It’s a much faster route and it’s designed to put a person under particular pressure to do what they’re supposed to do in terms of a summons,” Grant explained.
Political analyst Sandile Swana said on Monday that the commission’s only choice now was to get the police to arrest Zuma.
He highlighted the findings of Justice Chris Jafta – who delivered the ConCourt’s judgment – that the commission had, in fact, not even needed to go to court to do this.
“It could have been done long ago,” he said.
He also said, however, were Zuma to be jailed for this that it would be “Christmas” for him.
Swana said it would align with his narrative that he was being politically persecuted.
“He might be on very shaky – at best – ground legally, but politically there’s a beautiful case that he’s weaving together,” he said.
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