True to his legacy, Jacob Zuma’s people delivered a late-night response “denouncing” the 15-month prison sentence the Constitutional Court imposed on the former president for contempt.
During his presidency, Zuma had no qualms announcing Cabinet reshuffles in the dead of the night.
On Wednesday, the Jacob G Zuma Foundation which speaks on the former president’s behalf, released a late night two-page statement “denouncing” Judge Sisi Virginia Khampepe’s judgment.
The statement described the judgment as, “judicially emotional and angry and not consistent with our constitution”.
On Tuesday Acting Chief Justice Khampepe read a majority judgment she penned in which she found Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to direct imprisonment of 15 months.
Matters came to a head a few months ago when Zuma walked out of the state capture commission of inquiry in protest. Zuma wanted Zondo to recuse himself, but the chair refused.
Zuma then sought court intervention on the matter, which remains pending. During that period the former the president ignored summons to return to the commission.
Miffed by Zuma’s defiance, the Zondo commission asked the ConCourt to find the former president guilty of contempt and jail him for two years.
After she found Zuma guilty on Tuesday, Khampepe said: “The only appropriate sanction is a direct, unsuspended order of imprisonment.
“The alternative is to effectively sentence the legitimacy of the judiciary to inevitable decay.”
The acting chief justice ordered Zuma to hand himself over within five days at a police station to begin his term of imprisonment.
But the foundation pointed to the minority judgment, which it said cautioned against direct imprisonment without the offender being afforded an opportunity to be heard as is the norm in criminal matters.
The foundation complained that its patron had not been treated “equally before the law” because his matter was presided over by Zondo’s subordinates.
“The commission was given an advantage in a case that was presided over by Deputy Chief Justice Zondo’s colleagues, whom he supervises,” said the statement.
The foundation said the characterisation of “our patron” by the majority panel paints a picture of “a very angry panel of judges”.
“We concur with the view of other justices who said the Constitutional Court majority acted contrary to the rule of law,” declared the foundation, adding it was studying the judgment and consulting lawyers about available options for “our patron”.