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Zuma vows to appeal prison sentence

July 4, 2021

The former president told supporters that he believes his constitutional rights have been violated and claimed South Africa was returning to apartheid. He refused to turn himself in to authorities, despite a court order.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma
Zuma's tenure as president was plagued by corruption allegationsImage: Michele Spatarii/AP Photo/picture alliance

Former South African President Jacob Zuma said Sunday that he will appeal his 15-month jail term in defiant remarks to supporters. 

South Africa's Constitutional Court last week handed Zuma the prison sentence for obstructing an investigation into corruption during his presidency. Zuma was ordered to turn himself in to authorities within five days, or risk arrest by police.

What did Zuma say?

"I am not afraid of going to jail. I went to prison fighting for freedom and rights and it looks like I will have to start from scratch and fight for freedom again," Zuma told hundreds of supporters gathered at his home in the town of Nkandla.

"There is nobody who can come and take these rights away from me just because they think they understand the law," the former president added. "Those I fought for this freedom with would turn in their graves."

Zuma said he had received a "punitive" jail sentence without trial and claimed, "South Africa is fast sliding back to apartheid rule."

The supporters listening to Zuma wore ANC regalia and cheered the former president. 

"When I saw the police here I wondered how they will get to me, how they will get through all these people," Zuma said in mocking remarks towards the authorities. 

DW correspondent Christine Mhundwa said there is a "celebratory atmosphere" in Nkandla.

"The people here believe they are showing solidarity with a man who is being persecuted," Mhundwa said from the town.

"In other households, the atmosphere might be a little more somber," she added. Mhundwa said many South Africans feel Zuma "has a lot to answer for" due to the corruption allegations.

Zuma takes steps against prison sentence, arrest

Zuma has filed an application to the Constitutional Court to rescind the sentence against him. The court will review the case on July 12. 

Zuma will also apply for an interdict on Tuesday to prevent the police from arresting him.

Zuma served as South Africa's president from 2009 to 2018, and has faced multiple major scandals before, during, and after his tenure.

A report from South Africa's top corruption watchdog in 2016 alleged that the wealthy Gupta family had attempted to influence Zuma's appointment of cabinet members. Zuma has close ties to the Guptas.

Zuma also faces corruption charges due to a lucrative arms deal he made in the 1990's, when he served as deputy president. In addition, Zuma has been accused of using public money to upgrade his sprawling country estate in Nkandla.

wd/mm (AP, AFP, Reuters)