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South African Former President Jacob Zuma
South African Former President Jacob Zuma denies wrongdoingImage: picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS
Rule of LawSouth Africa

South Africa's Zuma bids to evade prison

July 6, 2021

The former president faces a jail term for contempt of court after refusing to appear at his own corruption inquest. His lawyer argues that he is in poor health and is not a flight risk.


Former South African President Jacob Zuma has been granted a temporary reprieve and is awaiting the outcome of a pair of legal challenges to his 15-month jail term for contempt of court.

Police officers have held back from arresting Zuma, 79, who had defied an order to give evidence at an inquest into his alleged corruption. 

Zuma on Tuesday asked the high court for an order to prevent his arrest, known as an interdict, and asked the constitutional court to cancel the sentence.

Zuma′s lawyer Dali Mpofu cited the "aggravated situation" in the country, as well as the ex-president's age and his "uncontestably precarious" health as reasons for the Pietermaritzburg High Court to stop the arrest. He also argued that his client was not a flight risk. 

First decision set for Friday, the next on July 12

After the court announced the 15 month prison term last week, Zuma had five days to hand himself in, with the police previously set to arrest him by the end of Wednesday.

However, the man who was South African president for nine years appears to have bought himself more time with his last-ditch appeals.

The judge presiding over his case said that he would announced a decision on Friday about whether to grant the interdict.

Meanwhile, his appeal to the constitutional court to quash the sentence altogether is set for a July 12 hearing.

Why is the case significant?

The Zuma case is being seen as a test of the South Africa′s rule of law.

Zuma′s corruption case alleged he gave three Indian-born businessmen — Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta — access to state resources and influence over government policy.

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, a lawyer for the corruption inquiry, said Zuma was a "deliberately defiant litigant" who "had literally taken the law into his own hands."

However, the president of nine years, from 2009 to 2018, still enjoys strong support in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal and in the governing African National Congress (ANC).

Jacob Zuma supporters
Jacob Zuma supporters walk to the ex-president's homeImage: Rogan Ward/REUTERS

jc/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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