The Constitutional Court has ordered former president Jacob Zuma to abide by a summons to appear before the state capture commission and give evidence before it.
The decision of the highest court means that should Zuma not appear on February 15 as per his summons, and without good cause, he would not only be in breach of the Commissions Act but would be in breach of an order of the highest court in the land.
The Constitutional Court also found that no witness has the right to remain silent before the commission, chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, but witnesses do have the privilege against self-incrimination.
In handing down judgment, Justice Chris Jafta said that the State Capture Commission was to blame for the urgency with which it had to approach the Constitutional Court so late in the day. However, it was not just the commission’s interests at stake. There was also a “compelling public interest”.
He said the former president was firmly placed at the centre of allegations “so serious that, if established, a huge threat to this country’s fledgling democracy will have occurred”. For these reasons, the court decided to grant direct access.
The application followed Zuma’s walk-out – in breach of a summons – from the commission in November after his application for the recusal of Zondo was rejected. Jafta said as he handed down judgment that South Africa was “a republic of laws where the Constitution reigns supreme”.