'I am sorry you ended up in jail': Madonsela hopes Zuma learns from his arrest

Former President Jacob Zuma has started serving a 15-month sentence at the Estcourt Correctional Centre for contempt after failing to appear to answer questions at the state capture inquiry.

FILE:  Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Picture: Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN – Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said she was sorry that former President Jacob Zuma landed up in jail but hoped that he would learn from the consequences of his actions.

Zuma has started serving a 15-month sentence at the Estcourt Correctional Centre for contempt after failing to appear to answer questions at the state capture inquiry.

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Madonsela, who is now a professor of law at Stellenbosch University, had a message for Zuma: “My message to him is: I am sorry, Mr former president, that you have ended up in jail, you didn’t have to. All you needed to do is be accountable - like everyone else - and to obey a court order, and I am sorry it has ended this way.

“But the good thing is we cannot reinvent the past, but we can learn from its consequences, and do better as we go forward, and I hope you, former president, will do the same.”

Madonsela was scathing about Zuma’s attacks on the judiciary:

“Zuma’s pronouncements about the judiciary, the delegitimisation of judges and courts is sad, unethical and just plain wrong because he casts aspersions against people, he throws shades, innuendoes and accusations about people and he does not hold himself accountable to provide evidence…”

The professor said many people might believe Zuma’s claims about conspiracies against him – for which he could never provide supporting evidence.

“So, he needs to take responsibility – he needs to remember that like many, he fought for our democracy and as one of its many midwives, he has a responsibility to support it, protect it and defend it. Instead, he has been assailing everything that is dear to us in terms of democracy, the rule of law, and constitutionalism.”

‘ZUMA WILL THINK TWICE BEFORE INSULTING JUDGES’

Madonsela said the former president was likely to now think twice before he insults judges or accuses them of wrongdoing without backing up his claims with evidence.

Zuma’s journey from Nkandla to the Estcourt Correctional Centre can be said to have started with Madonsela’s State of Capture report from 2016. But she never expected anyone to be jailed.

“People dance with the system, but not in the manner so brazen, so contemptuous as the former president has done to the (Zondo) commission, and to the apex court of our land. You can’t even do it to a magistrate, but he did it to the apex court.”

She said Zuma’s arrest and jailing for contempt was a victory for the country’s democracy, for the law and for constitutionalism.

But she said she had never been happy to see anybody behind bars.

“So, in this case, I am sad that former President Jacob Zuma has gone to jail – but I understand that if we want democracy to hold, if we don’t want democracy to shatter into pieces… we have to bear that some of us may have to go to jail if they refuse to play along.”

She hopes that Zuma will learn a lesson and that nobody will now try and “play games” with the state capture inquiry.

“I expect that President Zuma will think twice before he insults judges without evidence or accuses them of all manner of things without accountability for his accusations.”

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