On Thursday, the court handed down judgment in the prolonged the court application against Zuma, days after he was pressured to resign by his own African National Congress (ANC) party following a string of controversies.
The high court ruled Zuma had acted “unlawfully, irrationally and unconstitutionally.”
“South Africa remains bound by the [SADC] Treaty and the First Protocol,” the bench, led by Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, concluded on Thursday.
“Amending the Treaty and without terminating the First Protocol, the Executive has no authority to participate in a decision in conflict with South Africa’s binding obligations.”
The Law Society of South Africa launched the application in 2015 to declare the actions of Zuma, as well as the Minister of Justice, Michael Masutha, and the then Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, unconstitutional in relation to SADC’s 2014 Protocol.
Some farmers disposed of land they laid claim to in Zimbabwe joined the application after the violent seizures by the administration of now-deposed president, Robert Mugabe.
South African civil rights group AfriForum successfully assisted four Zimbabwean farmers and two agricultural companies to intervene in the case.
Willie Spies, the legal representative of AfriForum, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the court proceedings.
He said it was important that the 277 million citizens of the SADC region understood the role of regional tribunals and their critical importance in protecting the rights of all citizens.
“When individual citizens, civil society groups and activists are denied access to justice in their own countries, they must be able to challenge decisions that may have an impact on democracy and their human rights through a higher court of arbitration,” he explained.
He pointed out regional courts exist throughout the world to protect human rights and rule of law.
The court’s ruling is further dent to Zuma’s reputation.
His resignation last month brought to an end a reign that was preceded by accusations of rape (he was acquitted) and corruption.
In the latter years of his reign, he was under fire for his ties with the controversial Gupta family and flouting the constitution on matters related to the flagrant use of taxpayers’ money to upgrade his lavish private home.