The constitutional court has agreed to hear the Zondo commission’s application for a contempt ruling, coupled with a punitive two-year prison term, against former president Jacob Zuma on 25 March.
The court issued a directive on Monday giving Zuma and the second and third respondents — the minister and the national commissioner of police — until next Monday, 8 March, to file answering affidavits.
The Zondo commission will then have until 12 March to file a replying affidavit, and until 15 March to file written submissions. The respondents have been given until 19 March to respond with written submissions of their own.
The court hearing will take place virtually from 10am on 25 March.
Commission secretary Itumeleng Mosala last week asked the court to find Zuma in contempt for flouting a summons after he refused an order of the constitutional court to testify before the commission from 19 to 24 February.
The commission asked the court to impose a prison sentence on Zuma, who has been implicated 40 times and counting by witnesses testifying on the rent-seeking state capture scandal that mainly played out during his two terms as president.
Zuma has responded with incendiary attacks on Zondo and other judges.
The ANC’s top leaders are due to meet him to try to persuade him to reconsider his refusal to cooperate with the commission, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma’s namesake foundation earlier on Monday issued another statement on the matter, this time accusing the commission of misunderstanding the law on maximum penalties for contempt and seeking to subvert, for the sake of his political persecution.
It also suggested that Zuma had been prepared to cooperate, but that the commission chose to dissimulate this in its court application filed last week.
The Zondo commission last year approached the constitutional court after Zuma walked out of a sitting in November without being excused.
On 28 January, the court granted the commission an order compelling Zuma to cooperate with all future summonses and directives. The judgment included a stinging rebuke of Zuma for defying the state capture inquiry and, along with it, the rule of law. But the court also reprimanded the commission for having been too lenient towards the former head of state while he stone-walled its approaches for more than two years.
Zuma chose not to oppose the court application filed in December.
Should he wish to escape a contempt finding, his legal team will have to cast reasonable doubt on the contention by the commission, and assumption in law, that he acted wilfully and in bad faith in defying the court order.