The direct imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma had the potential to ‘incite public outcry and civil disobedience and anarchy’, a Pietermaritzburg-based civic organisation claims in papers filed in the Constitutional Court.

The Concerned Citizens of Northern Suburbs of Pietermaritzburg (CCNSP) has applied to be a friend of the court in the case by the State Capture Commission, which wants Zuma to be held in contempt of court after he failed to turn up to give evidence at the commission, despite a court order that he should obey all the commission’s lawful summons. 

The commission asked the court to order that Zuma be imprisoned for two years for contempt.

According to a TimesLIVE report, the CCNSP’s chairperson, Sirsing Singh, said in an affidavit that the civic body was concerned a harsh sentence would have severe repercussions for the rule of law, the administration of justice and the judiciary. 

In deciding on an appropriate sentence the court should consider Zuma’s struggle history and that, ‘despite contentious allegations of fraud and corruption levelled against him by the Mbeki administration, Zuma commanded overwhelming support from the masses’, which had led to him becoming President.

Singh also said that the ‘litany of complaints’ against Zuma were untested allegations yet to be proven in court.

However, notes TimesLIVE, Singh did not deal in his affidavit with the allegation of contempt of court – the only issue the Constitutional Court is concerned with in this case.

The affidavit also does not give any further details about why incarceration would lead to anarchy and civil disobedience.

But Singh said that Zuma has a very wide support base and is ‘still a revered leader’.

He said Zuma had recently celebrated his 79th birthday and had many wives and children – ‘for whom he is the primary care giver and the leader of his clan’.

If he were imprisoned, he would be the oldest prisoner, said Singh.

‘Given his advanced age and deteriorating health, any form of incarceration will prove to be a death sentence for him.’ 

Full TimesLIVE report