S.Africa’s top court hears bid to jail ‘cynical’ Zuma for contempt

Johannesburg: South Africa’s top court on Thursday started hearing an urgent application to have ex-president Jacob Zuma jailed for two years for defying an order to testify in a corruption hearing.

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Zuma has snubbed a government-appointed panel investigating the plunder of state coffers during his rule, claiming bias on the part of its chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

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The former leader testified only once, in July 2019, before staging a walkout days later.

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On January 28, the Constitutional Court ordered him to appear before the commission, but he ignored that order.

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The commission’s lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi said Thursday that Zuma’s failure to comply with a court order was “deliberate and cynical” and “constitutes an assault” on the rule of law.

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“His conduct must be seen for what it is, we are dealing with a cynical manoeuvre to avoid accountability.

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“In his failure to comply, he also adopted a belligerent and defiant tone,” the lawyer told the top court in Johannesburg.

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The commission’s lawyers said the 78-year-old must be jailed for contempt of court as his “status as former president does not protect him from the law”.

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Zuma, accused of enabling runaway graft during his tenure in office, was forced to step down in 2018 over graft scandals mainly surrounding an Indian business family, the Guptas – who won lucrative contracts with state companies and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.

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