JOHANNESBURG: Mr Zuma has been told to hand himself to a police station to begin serving his 15 months unsuspended jail term.
Former president of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail for contempt of court after he failed to appear at a corruption inquiry earlier this year. Mr Zuma who has been dodging jail time since the early 2000s led Mr Nelson Mandela country to a grand scale of corruption and embarrassment.
The inquiry, led by the country’s deputy chief justice, Mr Raymond Zondo, is examining allegations of high-level graft during Mr Zuma’s nine-year term. Mr Zuma denies aiding and abetting the plunder of state funds and has so far not cooperated, but his legal options appear to have run out.
As he was sentenced, Mr Zuma is being tried on separate corruption charges relating to an arms deal with French defence firm Thales in 1999, when he was deputy president. He is due to appear on July 19.
There have been mixed reactions to Mr Zuma’s sentencing by an acting judge, Ms Sisi Khampepe, with many of his followers in his home province vowing to protect him from being arrested.
Mr Zuma’s eldest son, Mr Edward Zuma, said the police will have to kill him before arresting his father. Speaking to the media outside his family homestead in Nkandla on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Zuma said boldly and repeatedly declared that law enforcement officers would have to kill him before they arrested the former president.
There is brewing support for Mr Zuma since the sentencing was announced earlier on Tuesday. Many have echoed Mr (Edward) Zuma’s sentiments and citing defiance from the embattled leader of the African National Congress (ANC).
“It is very difficult to tell, as the former president Jacob Zuma is himself unpredictable, especially when the odds have stuck against him. By not handing himself over to a nearby police station, be it in Nkandla or Johannesburg, would force the police to effect his arrest and any resistance may lead to a confrontation between his supporters (provided that MK veterans stick to their words) and the police,” an Independent Political Analyst, Mr Molifi Tshabalala said.
Besides the Umkhonto WeSizwe Military Veterans Association vowing to defend Mr Zuma, another group of Radical Economic Transformation, led by Mr Nkosentsha Shezi, a formation that has behind Mr Zuma for years, said the Concourt ruling means that ‘isukile’, loosely translated, ‘war declared’.
“As the country is still on level 4, the MK veterans themselves ran a risk of being arrested for not only defeating the ends of justice but also violating public gathering regulations,” Mr Tshabalala said.
His foundation, the Jacob Zuma foundation said it was studying the judgement and said Mr Zuma may address the nation.
But Tuesday’s ruling appears to have left Mr Zuma without legal recourse.
“He has depleted all his (legal) options because there is no higher court to appeal to. The constitutional court is normally the last stop,” Ms Amanda Gouws, a professor of political science at the University of Stellenbosch, said while speaking to Reuters.
“They have finally said ‘enough is enough’.”