Justice is blind to prejudice and bias, or this is how it ought to be; but in most instances especially in Africa, the judiciary is so corrupted that justice is often denied for selfish reasons. But today in South Africa, the judiciary in Africa has scored a point in fairness.
Jacob Zuma (©AP) and Justice Sisi Khampepe (©News24)
The former President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, has been sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment by the South Africa highest court, the Constitutional Court, for contempt of "court". Ironically, the sentence was pronounced by the Acting Chief Justice of the court whom he[Zuma] appointed as one of the Justices of the court in 2009 when he was the President of South Africa.
Jacob Zuma appointed Sisi Khampepe as Justice of South Africa's highest court, Constitutional Court in November 2009 (Image: Bloomberg.com)
Justice Sisi Virginia Khampepe who assumed her position as Acting Chief Justice on May 1st, 2021, made her pronouncement without prejudice. Jacob Zuma who was President of South Africa from May 2009 until his resignation in February 2018, appointed Sisi Khampepe from the Labour Appeal Court to be one of the Constitution Court. During his time as President, Jacob Zuma was accused of corruption. After his resignation as President, a Panel of Inquiry was established to investigate the corruption charges against him but the former President refused to honour invitations or respect the Justices.
For gross disregard for the court, South Africa Judiciary through its highest court sentenced former President Jacob Zuma to 15 years imprisonment (Image: Daily Maverik)
According to reports by the BBC today 29th June: in November 2020, during one of the Panel's hearings, the former President walked out of a session. He also declined to appear in another session in February and has made utterances that undermined the Panel and the Justices. This forced the Panel to file contempt charges against him.
In passing her judgment, Justice Sisi Khampepe said Jacob Zuma refused to honour the Panel and chose to engage in a calculated effort to impugn the integrity of the Judiciary. She further explained that she was left with no option but to commit Mr. Zuma to imprisonment, with the hope that doing so sends an unequivocal message...the rule of law and the administration of justice prevail. The former President was sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment.
Justice Khampepe's ruling is bold and also just: she has every reason to manipulate the system to keep the man who appointed her as a member of the country's highest court from accountability. But her loyalty was to the integrity of the institution and the justice system and hence pass a judgement that established the fairness of mother justice and the sacredness of the rule of law. This is not only an achievement for Justice Sisi Khampepe but South Africa's Judiciary and for Africa's integrity. Chief justices from other African countries should learn from this.
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