What are the consequences of assisting a person who is refusing to comply with a court order?

refusing to comply with a court order

The judiciary has been under the spotlight much more than usual with the case of former president Jacob Zuma. Mr Zuma has now refused to comply with a Constitutional Court order twice. Firstly, by refusing to appear before the State Capture Commission for questioning and secondly, by refusing to tell the Constitutional Court what sentence he feels should be meted out for defying it. It will be interesting to see how the Constitutional Court will now proceed.

It is possible that a warrant of arrest may be issued against Mr Zuma who has gone so far as to dare the Court to arrest him. What would be more interesting, and perhaps catastrophic however, is the fact that should a warrant of arrest be issued against Jacob Zuma, members of uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), as well as the RET faction of the ANC have vowed to do anything to protect him from arrest.

According to reports, the MKMVA and the RET are supported by the local traditional leaders and the community of Nkandla who have declared that should the police intend to arrest Mr Zuma they will have to go through them.

The question is, what consequences are likely to be faced by people who choose to participate in the act of preventing Mr Zuma from getting arrested, in the event that the court does order his arrest? Or what are the consequences for any person, for that matter, who knowingly either prevents the arrest of another person or takes part in a standoff with the police to prevent the arrest of that other person.

The law recognises that more than one person can be involved in the commission of a crime and there are 3 main principles that apply in determining the criminal liability of such persons.

Firstly, there is the doctrine of common purpose which is a principle of law which provides that if several people act together with a common interest, every act done to achieve that interest by each of them is considered to have been done by all. So, if two or more people agree to commit a crime or actively associate in a joint unlawful activity, each of them can be arrested for whatever action is done by one of them which falls within their common purpose.

Secondly, one can commit an offence as an accomplice. An accomplice is a person who takes part in the commission of a crime but is not the perpetrator of the crime. An accomplice is someone who affords the perpetrator the opportunity or the means or the required information which assists in the commission of the crime.

Lastly, and perhaps more relevant to the current case study, one can take part in the commission of a crime as an accessory after the fact. This is a person who unlawfully and intentionally assists someone who has committed a crime to evade justice. An accessory after the fact comes into the picture after the commission of the crime is completed and assists the perpetrator to escape the consequences of his or her actions.

There are, therefore, consequences for participating in criminal activity. The only difference is that there are different consequences depending on the degree of participation.


If you have been arrested for an offence or there is a warrant out for your arrest you can contact us for assistance.


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