The high court in Pretoria on Wednesday delivered a harsh reprimand of the conduct of President Jacob Zuma, finding that he acted “in flagrant disregard” for the constitutional duties of the public protector.
Zuma had attempted “to stymie the fulfilment of a constitutional obligation by the office of the Public Protector” in delaying the State of Capture report, said Judge Dunstan Mlambo, in a unanimous judgement by a full bench that ordered Zuma to personally pay the cost of the litigation.
The court stopped short of finding that Zuma had committed perjury, saying this had not been its task, but found that a claim he had made of a “typing error” through which he undermined his own argument was improbable.
But the court found that Zuma had engaged in “clear abuse of judicial process”, had been “grossly remiss” as a litigant, and had had “no acceptable basis in law and in fact” for the approach he took.
Last Friday the high court delivered a slightly softer summary of Zuma’s conduct in litigation in a separate matter, finding he had a habit of playing for time to see what advantage he may attain by delaying in court — at considerable expense. That case was about the departure of former prosecutions head Nxolisi Nxasana, which was set aside.
In Wednesday’s judgment, the court said that Zuma’s conduct had been so extraordinary that it demanded not only a punitive cost order, but one that specifically precluded taxpayers from ending up paying those costs on Zuma’s behalf.