In a rather unusual request, the South African judiciary has asked former President Jacob Zuma, who is being prosecuted for “contempt of court”, to determine his sentence should he be found guilty. He has until Wednesday to answer.
The ex-president, who turned 79 on Monday, has boycotted the commission investigating widespread corruption during his nine-year period of power since its inception in 2018.
After Zuma refused to testify for the umpteenth time in February, the commission announced the Constitutional Court asked the former head of state to impose a two-year prison sentence for “contempt of court.”
In this case, the former president had ignored not only a subpoena from the committee but also violated a January Constitutional Court ruling requiring him to appear and denying him the right to remain silent.
In a directive published on the Constitutional Court website last Friday, the court asked Zuma to determine “what is an appropriate punishment”. Before Wednesday, he must submit an affidavit out “the nature and extent of the sentence to be imposed”.
When AFP tried to contact, the former president’s lawyers did not respond. Zuma has never responded to a court request. He prefers to make statements in the press.
Legal experts say it is unusual for the judiciary to make such a request. The judges “want to show that they have exhausted all possibilities to question him,” said James Grant, a lawyer, specializing in constitutional law, “and are preparing to impose a severe sentence.”