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Jacob Zuma accused of peddling falsehoods as state capture inquiry files papers in ConCourt

Former president Jacob Zuma addressing supporters at his homestead in KwaZulu-Natal on the weekend.
Former president Jacob Zuma addressing supporters at his homestead in KwaZulu-Natal on the weekend.

Former president Jacob Zuma’s Constitutional Court application was “riddled with falsehoods, factual misrepresentations and distortions of the law,” the state capture inquiry said in court papers.

The inquiry was responding to Zuma’s approach to the Constitutional Court on Friday to reverse or “rescind” its order, made earlier last week, which held Zuma in contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months in prison. The contempt order came after Zuma defied the ConCourt’s earlier order to appear before the state capture inquiry and give evidence as per its summons.

In his affidavit, the inquiry’s secretary, Itumeleng Mosala, said the former president had failed to make out a case for rescission of judgment and was in “aggravated contempt” of the highest court.

“He has not purged the contempt and has no intention of doing so. No litigant can approach the doors of court with dirty hands,” said Mosala.

He said the court rule on rescission orders made them available when a judgment was obtained “erroneously” and in a person’s absence. However, this did not mean when a person was absent deliberately, and out of their own choice. It meant when they were unaware of the court case.

Setting out the history of the litigation between the inquiry and the former president in its efforts to get him to appear, Mosala said Zuma was very well aware of the litigation, and had, every step of the way, chosen not to come.

“A litigant who deliberately elects not to submit opposing papers cannot complain after the event. That is an abuse of the rescission procedure,” he said.

Mosala also said there were “distortions” and “misrepresentations” in Zuma’s court papers, including the “bald-faced lie” that when Zuma had walked out of the state capture inquiry  in November last year without permission, and in apparent breach of a summons, it was to take his medication. He said this explanation - given by Zuma in his court papers on Friday - was different to what he had said on oath in his review challenge to the refusal by inquiry chairperson Raymond Zondo to recuse himself.

Mosala also called “false” Zuma’s explanation that he had not participated in the litigation at the Constitutional Court because of “financial hardship”. Zuma had said that because of financial constraints, he had to be selective about which litigation he would direct his limited resources at. Mosala said that, in fact, all the way through the litigation, he had been represented by attorney Eric Mabuza.

The former president had also released public statements at the time that said nothing about financial hardship and instead said he was not participating as a conscientious objection to the way he was being treated by the inquiry and the courts, said Mosala.

Mosala rejected each of what Zuma referred to as legal “errors” as grounds for rescission.

“Mr Zuma’s application must be seen for what it is. It is really a guised appeal against this court’s judgment,” Mosala said.

The inquiry’s court papers were filed in the highest court on Tuesday evening. Earlier the same day, the former president and the inquiry had been battling it out in the high court in Pietermaritzburg over whether that high court should “stay” or suspend the ConCourt’s order to arrest Zuma.

This followed a dramatic weekend. According to the ConCourt’s order last week Tuesday, Zuma was to turn himself over to the police by Sunday. Failing this, the police were to arrest him by Wednesday (today). On Friday he applied to the ConCourt and also urgently to the high court to stay the execution of his arrest, pending the ConCourt process and a constitutional challenge to the laws on contempt.

On Saturday, the Constitutional Court issued directions that it would hear his rescission case on July 12.

On Sunday, instead of turning himself in, he addressed the nation from his Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal. On Tuesday the high court heard his urgent application and said it would give judgment on Friday.