Commission of Inquiry into State Capture

The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) became involved in litigation surrounding the Commission when Jacob Zuma refused to comply with a summons instructing him to appear as a witness before the Commission. When the Commission itself sought to obtain an order from the Constitutional Court compelling Mr Zuma to comply with the summons, the HSF joined the court case as a ‘friend of the court’ (amicus curiae).

Despite securing an order from the Constitutional Court compelling Mr Zuma to appear before the Commission, Mr Zuma refused to do so. Approaching the Constitutional Court for the second time, the Commission sought an order of contempt of court and the HSF, once again, joined as an amicus curiae. The Constitutional Court held that Mr Zuma was in contempt of court and due to the severe and unprecedented nature of his contempt, sentenced him to 15 months imprisonment.

This finding set in motion two further unprecedented court battles. The first was an application by Mr Zuma to the Constitutional Court to rescind its judgment which sentenced him to imprisonment on the basis that he was not afforded a fair trial. The second was an application to the Pietermaritzburg High Court – which had geographical jurisdiction over Mr Zuma’s residence and place of intended imprisonment – to interdict the Constitutional Court’s order of imprisonment, pending the outcome of the rescission application.

The HSF was cited as a respondent in both applications and opposed them. Following a swift victory in respect of the interdict application, the parties to the rescission application were requested by the Constitutional Court to make submissions on whether Mr Zuma’s claim that he was not afforded a fair trial had any basis in South Africa’s international law obligations. Ultimately, the Commission and the HSF successfully opposed the High Court Interdict and the rescission application, resulting in Mr Zuma being kept in prison.