Former South African President Jacob Zuma has been sentenced to prison, but is still dragging his feet. Mr. Zuma must turn himself in by Sunday night or police should arrest him starting Wednesday night. But Inspector General of Police Bheki Cele implicitly ruled out arresting Zuma this week even before Tuesday’s hearing in Pietermaritzburg (East), repeating that he was awaiting judicial “clarification.” Zuma’s supporters are expected to demonstrate at the virtual hearing in court later this morning. The final decision on the judicial fate of the former president (2009-2018) is believed to be made next week by the country’s highest judicial body, the Constitutional Court.
However it is this same court that last week sentenced former President Zuma, 79, to 15 months in prison for contempt of court for repeatedly refusing to testify in a judicial investigation into state corruption, AFP reported today.
The decision earlier appeared to be considered final, but the charismatic and savvy former president managed to get the Constitutional Court to reconsider the sentencing decision on Monday. In the meantime, he asked for the arrest warrant to be suspended until then.
When the arrest deadline expired, Zuma joked from his stronghold in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, in the east, that there was no need for me to go to jail today. Zuma asked for his sentence to be cancelled or at least reduced, and Zuma questioned the impartiality of the judge who sentenced him. He also cited his “precarious” health, arguing that imprisonment would make him as “condemned to death.”
Last weekend, hundreds of supporters gathered outside his estate in rural Zulu, which has undergone a boisterous renovation funded by taxpayers during his presidency.
High-level members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) condemned “any attempt to respond to legal and judicial matters with threats and violence” in a statement launched today, Tuesday. AFP said the statement was backed by current President Cyril Ramaphosa. Some in the party fear that the conviction of the former president could lead to a serious political crisis in the long-established party, where Zuma still has many supporters.” But the statement reassured that “the current situation in KwaZulu-Natal is not a popular uprising, but a carefully planned and organized one within the NCP.”
According to AFP, former South African President Zuma has been accused of looting public resources during his nine years in power. Embroiled in scandal, he was pushed out of office in 2018 and replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa, whose successor has made the fight against corruption a priority in his own administration.