The former South African President, Jacob Zuma, has just been sentenced to 15 months in prison by the Constitutional Court of his country. The reason for the sentence: his refusal to appear before an anti-corruption commission.
The Constitutional Court of South Africa, which is responsible for examining corruption cases during Jacob Zuma’s tenure as President of South Africa, issued its verdict on Tuesday: the former President has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. The former president, who recently said he had no fear of being arrested, convicted or imprisoned, now has five days to surrender to the court. If he does not, he will be taken away by force to serve his sentence.
The conviction came in retaliation for the former president’s refusal to appear before an anti-corruption commission. The country’s highest court found him in contempt of court and gave its verdict « by a majority of its members ». Justice Sisi Khampepe said: « This kind of reluctance and defiance is illegal and will be punished. I have no choice but to imprison Mr Zuma, in the hope that this sends a clear message (…) that the rule of law and the administration of justice prevail ».
Forced to resign from office in 2018 before the end of his second term, due to the numerous financial scandals and scandalous affairs that have marred his presidency, Jacob Zuma was very quickly forced to face the justice system of his country. In the same year that he resigned, the Zondo Commission, named after its chairman, Raymond Zondo, was set up to investigate the corruption that had been rampant during his nine years in power in South Africa. The cases are numerous: the Gupta case, the Thales case, etc.
But the former head of state denies any involvement in these various cases and, counting on the support he still enjoys within the ANC, even refuses to collaborate with the justice system by not answering summonses. Since the establishment of the commission, Jacob Zuma has only appeared once – in July 2019 – and he has not even hesitated to slam the door, complaining of being treated as an ‘accused’.
Jacob Zuma’s situation seems so desperate – he has already been implicated by some 40 witnesses since the commission was set up – that at a virtual hearing last March, the commission’s lawyer, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, was convinced that the question of the former president’s incarceration no longer arose, but rather wondered how much time he would have to spend behind bars. Zuma’s status as a former president « does not protect him from the law », the lawyer insisted.