- Former president Jacob Zuma maintained his arrest was not warranted at his first public appearance after his 15-month sentence for contempt of court ended.
- He also mocked ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe saying it was absurd that he called him old for making himself available to contest the party’s chairperson position.
- Zuma was at the Pietermaritzburg High Court for his private prosecution against News24 journalist Karyn Maughan and NPA prosecutor Billy Downer.
During his first public appearance after the end of his 15-month sentence, former president Jacob Zuma made a veiled attack on the judiciary while also mocking his political opponents.
Zuma, who received a warm welcome from a large crowd at Freedom Park opposite the Pietermaritzburg High Court, thanked his supporters for backing him throughout his prison sentence. He also claimed that his arrest last year was unwarranted.
“I am prepared for whatever might come my way. The struggle is not yet over. I want to thank you, especially, because when times were tough and I was sent to prison for 15 months, you were there,” he told supporters.
“The sad part was that I was arrested for no reason at all. The real reason was because I refused to heed the advice of judges of the Constitutional Court when they asked me to do something that was against the Constitution when they were trying to force me to answer questions even against my own will, which is against the law.
“When they insisted, I then said I would not go to their court; they could do whatever they wanted. I will repeat this again if they take the same stance,” threatened Zuma.
He added that he had fought for the liberation of South Africans and therefore he could not participate in what he described as the “limitation of his Constitutional rights” by the Constitutional Court judges.
“I decided to fight for our freedom and will not be forced back to oppression even by a judge. Even if they [the judges] were to say tomorrow that I must break the law as they were asking me, then I would still go against them,” said Zuma.
In March 2021, Zuma chose not to file an answering affidavit to the Zondo commission’s application asking the Constitutional Court to sentence him to a prison term for contempt.
This came after the former president’s failure to oppose a successful application by the commission in 2020 for an order compelling him to heed a summons to testify for five days at the commission in mid-February.
The commission resorted to this avenue after Zuma walked out of the commission’s proceedings and refused to return until the chairperson recused himself.
Zuma flouted the 2020 order compelling him to return to the commission to give testimony, leaving the commission with no choice but to ask the court to find him in contempt and jail him.
However, on Monday, Zuma portrayed himself as a victim of the judiciary.
Zuma also spoke about the July unrest, categorising the violent scenes as a demonstration of unhappiness by those faithful to him who were angry with the contempt ruling.
“I was in jail when I was told that the nation is on fire with people going against judges because of the decision that they made,” said Zuma.
Following Zuma’s arrest, his supporters embarked on protests which soon turned violent as people rampaged and looted through parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. More than 350 people died and billions of rands in damages were lost.
Adriaan Basson | Zuma vs Maughan: Media freedom goes on trial
Zuma also mocked ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who had said that Zuma putting his hand up to challenge him in December was the biggest joke of the year. Zuma called Mantashe’s comments “absurd”.
The former president told his supporters that now that he was a free man, he would divulge ANC secrets that he had long threatened to share.
“Even when I speak politics, I say it as it is. I was standing for the truth.
“I am glad I can speak freely, without fear. The days are coming when I shall speak my piece. I spoke a bit over the past few days, but I will speak some more. I still have a lot to do. When I see that there are problems, I will address them,” said Zuma.
He was speaking after attending his private prosecution against News24 journalist Karyn Maughan and NPA prosecutor Billy Downer.
Last year, Zuma opened a criminal case against Downer, the lead prosecutor in his corruption trial, for the alleged “leaking” of a confidential medical note to Maughan.
Both Maughan and Downer have maintained that they did nothing wrong.
The NPA refused to prosecute Downer and issued a nolle prosequi certificate – a legal document required to institute a private prosecution.
This opened the way for Zuma to launch a private prosecution against Downer over the medical information.
Maughan seeks to have the case against her dismissed on the grounds that the private prosecution was a gross abuse of the court processes and was designed to intimidate the media and Zuma had not obtained a nolle prosequi certificate from the NPA with regard to her.
Zuma’s private prosecution of Downer and Maughan will return to court next year, pending the finalisation of their review applications.
Describing the case on Monday, Zuma said it was unprecedented where the prosecutor was now the accused while he, known to be a serial accused, was now prosecuting.
Similar sentiments were shared by ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Siboniso Duma, who said “Zuma has managed to put white people on the dock, something that is unheard of”.
Duma also revealed that “he [Zuma] did not ask for this support from us, we saw it fit to support him because of his political credentials”.
Showing his hand as the party leads up to its national conference in December, Duma said: “The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal is not for sale, and whether you are happy or not happy, we will support and take guidance from Msholozi.”