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LETTER: Contempt of court: why no judgment in Zuma case?

The matter was unopposed and the judges must hand down their findings soon

14 June 2021 – 17:08

On March 1 the Constitutional Court issued directions in the application by the state capture commission to punish Jacob Zuma for his contempt of the same court’s order that he attend the commission after he absconded illegally in November 2020.

The directions set a tight timetable for the exchange of affidavits and written arguments. Quite correctly, the court regarded the matter as urgent. The commission complied with the directions; Zuma did not, preferring to write a rambling letter in which he purported to justify his refusal to respond as directed by the highest court in the land.

As  required by the court, the hearing was held on March 25 on an unopposed basis. No judgment on the application has been forthcoming.

Under section 165 of the constitution, it is the constitutional obligation of all courts to apply the law “impartially and without fear, favour or prejudice”. In terms of section 237 of the constitution, “All constitutional obligations must be performed diligently and without delay.” The bill of rights makes it clear that we are all equal before the law, pauper and ex-president alike.

Political analyst Sanusha Naidu has correctly characterised the case as a test for the rule of law and the state of the country’s democracy, describing it as “a critical moment … with far-reaching implications”.

Given that the matter, though novel in some ways, was unopposed, it is difficult to explain why no judgment has been forthcoming. The justices are surely aware that the old saying “justice delayed is justice denied” will apply if they do not hand down their findings ere long.

Paul Hoffman
Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa 

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