5 key things on how it started and where the case is now

5 key things on how it started and where the case is now


Durban – It has been almost three months since the Constitutional Court convened to hear argument (Zuma refused to take part) by the Zondo commission on why former president Jacob Zuma deserves a two-year jail sentence for defying its summons.

The commission first summoned Zuma in November last year but the former head of state flagrantly defied it.

The commission was then forced to go to the Constitutional Court to ask it to compel Zuma to appear.

On January 28 this year, the court ruled that Zuma should honour the summons and he could not exercise his right to remain silent when questioned by the commission probing allegations of state capture by the Gupta family during his nine-year rule between 2009 and 2018.

That set the tone for Zuma’s defiance and he who would later tell the court that it was playing political games and he was ready to be jailed for his defiance.

Here is how the matter has panned out since then:

1. First summons issued in November 2020

On November 19 last year, Zuma irked the commission’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo by walking out of a heated sitting. This was after Zuma could not force Zondo to recuse himself. Zuma said they had personal historical issues that would cloud the judge’s sense of fairness if he presided over his testimony.

2. Second batch of summons issued to Zuma to appear in January and February 2021

In response to the November walkout, the Zondo commission once again summoned Zuma to appear before it, between January 18 and 22 this year and later between February 15 and 19 this year. In response, Zuma sent his lawyers to tell the commission that he would not take part in the proceedings, irking Justice Zondo who said no one was above the law.

3. Zondo commission’s first dash to the Constitutional Court to force Zuma to testify

As the mudslinging between Zuma and the commission persisted, Zuma’s lawyers said he could appear before the commission and elected not to answer questions. As a pre-emptive strike, the commission dashed to the Constitutional Court and secured an order, handed down on January 28, compelling Zuma to answer all questions posed to him. This triggered yet another war between Zuma, the Zondo commission and the Constitutional Court.

4. Zuma defies the Constitutional Court and the Zondo commission

On February 15 this year, Zuma, for the first time, shockingly revealed that he was going to defy the Constitutional Court. In a 12-page and 37 point “final statement”, he said he took the extraordinary step not to undermine the Constitution but to vindicate it, in the face of what he viewed as “a few in the judiciary that have long left their constitutional station to join political battles”. He added that his defiance was a political statement aimed at those who had used the law to unfairly penalise him and persecute his family.

5. Constitutional Court reserves judgment on whether Zuma should be jailed

In March this year, the battle between Zuma and the commission took another turn when the Constitutional Court was asked by the Zondo commission to jail Zuma for defying lawful orders. In the middle of the application by the commission, the Constitutional Court asked Zuma to suggest a suitable sentence for him. The former head of state replied that he was not going to legitimise the process by taking part in it, because he believed it has been tainted by political and external interferences.

On March 25, the the Constitutional Court heard the matter but the judgment was reserved amid expectations that it would be handed down as soon as possible as the commission is expected to wind up its work by June 30 this year.


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