FORMER South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma’s “only sin” was that he wanted his dispute over the recusal of state capture commission chair Raymond Zondo to be decided before he had to appear before him, he said in urgent court papers to the Constitutional Court on Friday.
Even if his stance was “ill-advised” it was never intended to provoke “such acerbic judicial ire”, he said.
“To the extent that it clearly had that unintended consequence, it is very regrettable indeed,” said the former president.
Zuma has applied to the Constitutional Court to rescind its order on Tuesday that he is guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months in prison.
The contempt order was for failing to comply with the Constitutional Court’s earlier order in January to appear at the state capture commission and give evidence as per the commission’s lawful summons. When the commissions summoned him in February, he did not come.
On Friday, Zuma also urgently applied to the high court in Pietermariztburg to stay the orders that required him to turn himself in by Sunday, and to interdict the police from arresting him pending his rescission application to the Constitutional Court.
In the high court he has also asked that the stay of imprisonment be kept in place pending a high court constitutional challenge to the “common law distinction of civil and contempt proceedings”.
“I seek an order declaring that it is not compatible with the constitution for a person convicted of the crime of civil contempt to be sentenced to any term of imprisonment without conducting a civil or criminal trial in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act,” he said in his high court affidavit.
In his founding affidavit to the Constitutional Court, the former president said that despite the court’s “strong expression of judicial disdain” for his defiance of its orders, he trusted it would be able to “dig from the depth of its judicial being, to bring the requisite calmness and restraint, and to adjudicate my matter solely based on its legal merits”.
He said his health was unstable and the incarceration order threatened his life.
“In the present circumstances, it is the right to life itself which may be at stake. It is therefore no exaggeration to label mine as cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.
Zuma said his medical condition required “constant and intense therapy and attention”.