Jacob Zuma and his followers laid down the gauntlet to the government yesterday, gathering in their hundreds outside his Nkandla homestead in defiance of lockdown regulations, all pledging themselves to fight against him going to jail.
A small police presence monitored proceedings but took no action, despite the size of the gathering and the lack of social distancing and wearing of masks.
The standoff came after Zuma and his legal team gave notice that they would challenge the Constitutional Court decision to sentence him to 15-months jail.
However, legal experts said the rescission application would hold no water.
In what is threatening to impact on ANC unity in the run-up to the local government polls later this year, Zuma – with supporters gathering outside his Nkandla homestead – has resolved on an intransigence tactic by mounting a fresh application against the sentence imposed by South Africa’s apex court.
No going back from a ConCourt ruling
Said Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution executive secretary Lawson Naidoo: “Zuma and his legal team have tried to take a belt-and-braces approach to this phase of his litigation.
“But both are flawed insofar as trying to keep him out of prison.”
“The KwaZulu-Natal High Court does not have jurisdiction to stay an order from a higher court, especially the Constitutional Court.
“The application does not seek an urgent interdict to suspend the order of the Constitutional Court, which remains in force until it is varied or overturned.
“The rescission application on its own does not achieve that.”
Legal expert Tshepang Segage said: “It is a generally well-established rule is that, once a court has duly pronounced a final judgment or order, it has itself no authority to set it aside or to correct, alter or supplement it.
“The reasons are twofold: first, the court becomes functus officio and its authority over the subject-matter ceases.
“Second, the principle of finality of litigation expressed in the maxim interest rei publicae ut sit finis litium (it is in the public interest that litigation be brought to finality) dictates that the power of the court should come to an end.”
Bad news for ANC unity
Political experts have seen the Zuma tension as having a negative impact on ANC unity.
Said independent political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga: “The ANC is in wonderland and paralysed.
“It’s becoming quite tense and now will raise questions about the meaning of the principle of the rule of law in South Africa.
“It is difficult to justify how Zuma should not be jailed. A political solution no longer exists, as it seems they are pushing for that.”
“Zuma is the centre of the storm, making it difficult not to personalise the matter,” said Institute for Global Dialogue political analyst Sanusha Naidu.
“We are dealing with an individual that is holding the party and the state ransom.
“Depending on how things come out of this, there is a public trust deficit that is beginning to show.”
Scathing on the ANC, award-winning arts administrator and playwright Ismail Mahomed, said: “If there is any blood to be spilt or lives to be lost in the next few days as a result of the crisis in KZN, it will have to rest on the collective shoulders of the ANC – both as a post-liberation political party and as government.
“Jacob Zuma is merely the by-product of a party that has long ago lost all its morality.
“From the early days of Tony Yengeni’s 4×4, Baleka Mbete’s faked driver’s licence and Nkosazana Zuma’s Sarafina hit the headlines, it was the ANC collective that turned its nose up against the people – closed ranks to protect the corrupt.
“It’s not surprising that from those seeds of corruption in its infant years as a government, the ANC spawned a forest of corruption that bore fruits that only its party members, families and inner circle could enjoy.”