EFF leader Julius Malema has said that jailing former president Jacob Zuma would serve no purpose and suggested that alternative ways of punishing the former president should be sought if he was found guilty.
The Pietermaritzburg High Court recently issued a warrant to arrest Zuma for failing to appear in court, but it was stayed until 6 May when his arms deal corruption trial is set to resume.
Zuma’s lawyer Dan Mantsha had claimed that the former president was genuinely sick and he, Mantsha submitted a sick note from a military hospital but Judge Dhaya Pillay questioned this, as the note had allegedly been altered.
She asked Mantsha to help her understand it, but this proved seemingly unsuccessful.
Speaking at the Press Club of South Africa on Friday morning, Malema said: “Jail time for an old person like that is not advisable. What type of society have we become to jail such old people? But it is for the court to decide.”
Malema said Zuma should have his day in court and answer to the allegations levelled against him and that the court must decide on the outcome of the matter but in doing so, the court must consider the former president’s age.
“Because the purpose of jail is correctional that’s why its called correctional service. So we correct you and send you back to society. So what are we going to correct with Zuma because he is an old man?” Malema questioned, adding that imprisoning the former president would be a waste of money.
He suggested that alternative measures should be sought as punishment if Zuma was found guilty.
The EFF leader took issue with those who had in protest, wearing orange overalls, called for politicians to be jailed “but they don’t say that about a man who called for action against the workers of Marikana”.
“Because Cyril [Ramaphosa] is given … some unjustifiable pass. If there is a person who must go to jail, its Cyril, its Susan Shabangu, its Nathi Mthethwa and Riah Phiyega. Those are the people who must go to jail for having killed our people [in broad daylight],” Malema said, adding that no rallies have been called for the arrests of those he mentioned, “because black lives were lost”.
Shabangu was the minister of mineral resources at the time of the Marikana Massacre in 2012, while Mthethwa served as the minister of police and Phiyega as the national police commissioner.
Malema called for consistency with regards to dealing with and holding to account senior and former politicians.
Malema said he did not understand Dhaya’s decision to issue a warrant for Zuma’s arrest when Mantsha had submitted a medical certificate as proof that the former president could not attend court.
“Because the judge should have called the doctor to come and explain the medical certificate. What those lawyers were doing there, it was beyond them. A lawyer presents a medical certificate and keeps quiet. They are going to ask you for practice numbers, you are going to look for practice numbers at the back of that thing because you don’t know where practice numbers are put on medical certificates,” Malema said, adding that Dhaya should have asked Mantsha and his team to lead evidence and call witnesses to testify on the medical certificate, which would have led to the court establishing whether the doctor’s note was fake or legitimate.
“We are not going to operate like that. Otherwise, we are going to be arrested, all of us, you are going to be arrested from your bed, your hospital bed,” Malema said, suggesting that what transpired in court around Zuma’s medical certificate could set a precedent of medical certificates being unnecessarily questioned.
“We are creating a wrong precedence because it’s happening to a man we don’t like. We question the credibility of the military. We question the credibility of our medical practitioners because we don’t like the man,” Malema said.
He added that he didn’t care whether Zuma was jailed or not but called for proper procedures to be followed.
Malema said it could not be accepted that a person – a judge – who was not a medical practitioner said a medical certificate “is not real”.
“Whether Zuma is sick or not, it’s not my duty to prove that, it’s the duty of doctors to prove that, it’s not the duty of the lawyers to do that,” Malema said.
He said such treatment of the former president would result in people “mobilising” for him.
“We are going to make him a victim,” Malema said, adding that how the former president was treated should ensure that he was not missed by South Africans.
He said what matters was dealing with the facts and adhering to the law and not how much South Africans hated Zuma.
Malema said South Africa would remain in a state of “paralysis” if some were subjected to the law while others were seen to be above it.