Ex-President Zuma rallies political support to escape justice

July 7, 2021
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Embattled South African former President Jacob Zuma has failed to surrender to police following his sentencing to 15-month in prison by the country’s Constitutional Court.

The apex court found Zama, 79, guilty of contempt for failing to appear for his corruption trial and handed him the sentence last week.

He was ordered to hand himself in to the police by Sunday, or be picked up.

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But to prevent his arrest, Zuma filed two suits, one at the Pietermaritzburg
High Court, asking for the stay on his arrest order and the other, an appeal before the Constitutional Court asking it to set aside the sentence.

The case is considered a major test for South Africa’s fragile legal system.

After hearing Zuma’s challenge, the High Court Tuesday reserved ruling until Friday morning.

Meanwhile, legal experts believe that at best, Zuma’s two legal challenges could only delay his troubles.

The former anti-apartheid activist became president in 2013 until he was forced to resign in 2018 with his presidency characterised by corruption scandals.

Zuma still has other legal charges to answer including one before the Constitutional Court on July 12.

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Some of the charges relate to arms deal in the 1990s, and influence peddling by powerful businessmen in the infamous Gupta family “State capture” scandals.

Zuma, referring to his age, called the 15-month sentence against him as “a death sentence.”

He has thus adopted a defiant posture at his Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal, alleging that he had been sentenced without trial.

It is unclear if the police would go after Zuma before Friday as he continues to use as “human shield,” hundreds of his supporters dancing in and around his compound.

His son, Edward, has warned that for the police to get his father, they must first contend with him.

While the stand-off has re-enacted deep-rooted divisions between Zuma’s remaining loyalists in the ruling African National Congress and his successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, some commentators say the dispute is unlikely to cause an irreparable damage to the ANC.

Zuma’s political reputation could take a further bruise, but his supporters cannot imagine their hero, who went to jail fighting apartheid, going to jail under a free South Africa.

With the legal odds stacked against him, it remains to be seen whether Zuma will escape the consequences of his actions in office, like many of colleagues in Africa, who thrive on impunity.

It is a Catch 22 situation for the South African judiciary, which would be considered weak if Zuma is let off lightly, and will likely come under heavy criticisms by anti-apartheid groups should Zuma suffer what they consider unfair legal treatment.

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