The commission to investigate serious corruption in South Africa during Jacob Zuma’s tenure will initiate legal proceedings, including a prison sentence, against the former head of state for disregard of justice, the official responsible for this body announced on Monday.
“The law is clear and the Commission considers Mr Zuma’s behavior to be very serious. In this situation, the commission will ask the Constitutional Court, which decided that he should appear [perante este órgão]I have ordered the arrest of Mr Zuma or given a fine, ”Judge Raymond Zondo told the country in a 30-minute statement.
The South African judge and current Vice-President of Justice in South Africa, who heads the commission of inquiry that investigates major corruption in the former president’s mandate, said that “all South Africans are equal before the law” and stressed that “there are no rules for some and Rules for Others ”.
“This is very serious, because if it is allowed to happen (…) and only very little of our democracy remains,” emphasized Judge Zondo.
The former pesident, who avoided appearing before the commission of inquiry, should appear this Monday and by February 19, according to Zondo.
However, the former head of state informed the commission in a letter that he would not testify before the investigative commission as the South African judiciary had been asked to contest his appeal.
“In the circumstances, appearing before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo would undermine and invalidate the motion to review his decision not to appear,” said the letter sent to the head of state by lawyers and quoted by the South African press.
Earlier this month, Zuma said he would rather be arrested than cooperate with the investigative commission while it is headed by Raymond Zondo.
A South African judge issued an arrest warrant for the former president after he failed to appear in court on a corruption case. However, the measure will not be applied until May 6 if it does not reappear.
Jacob Zuma said in a statement released to the press that he would remain “challenging” as it was during apartheid and stressed that he would not abide by the Constitutional Court’s decision that recently forced him to appear before the commission of inquiry.
On January 28, the South African Constitutional Court ordered Jacob Zuma to testify before the so-called “Zondo Commission of Inquiry”. Zuma testified only once in July 2019, but withdrew after a few hours because he was being treated as a “defendant” rather than a witness.
The former president (2009-2018) was embroiled in scandals and had to resign. He was replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa, who pledged to root out corruption in the country.
The commission of inquiry, which originally intended to complete its work in March, must request an extension of its mandate due to the delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The agency has so far heard dozens of ministers, former ministers and other officials, businessmen and senior officials uncovering the “corrupt era” of Zuma’s presidency.