South Africa’s ANC leaders meet defiant Zuma over graft hearing

Former South African President Jacob Zuma looks on in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, May 20, 2019, JACKIE CLAUSEN/Getty Images)
Former South African President Jacob Zuma. (Photo by Jackie CLAUSEN / POOL / AFP)

The South African ruling party’s top leaders held talks with scandal-tainted ex-president Jacob Zuma on Monday to discuss his defiance of a court order to testify in a corruption hearing, the party said.

Zuma, accused of enabling runaway graft during his nine-year tenure in office, last month defied a Constitutional Court order to appear before a panel investigating graft allegations.

The judicial panel is now seeking to have the 78-year-old Zuma jailed for two years for contempt of court.

Following “constructive” online talks lasting several hours, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said the leaders agreed to give Zuma time to seek legal advice on whether to appear before the judicial commission of inquiry.

The meeting held with the party’s “top six” officials who include President Cyril Ramaphosa, the vice president, chairman and the secretary-general, “agreed to give him space to continue consulting with his lawyers,” Magashule told a news conference.

“We will respect his individual rights,” he said, stressing that Zuma “has not refused to appear” before the commission, but “has issues” with the commission’s chairman, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.

The secretary-general described the meeting as “very good, very constructive, positive” and “frank”.

The constitutional court will hear the contempt case against Zuma on March 25.

Zuma has only testified before the panel once in 2019 before staging a walkout.

He has since repeatedly pushed back against testifying, alleging political interference in the judiciary, adding that he did not fear being arrested, convicted or jailed.

The ex-leader, who came to power in 2009, was forced to resign in 2018 over graft scandals involving an Indian business family, the Guptas — who won lucrative contracts with state companies.