See why former South African President, Zuma was sentenced to jail

todayJuly 12, 2021 18

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On July 7, former South African President, Jacob Zuma, finally handed himself over to the police. He is to serve a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court.

Jacob Zuma, a former freedom fighter and former head of Umkhonto we Sizwe had once been imprisoned by the Apartheid regime. How he got himself into all this heart-rendering saga leading to his sentence  is really disheartening.

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, 79, was President of South Africa from May 9, 2009 to February 14, 2018, when he was forced out of office by members of his own party who had tired of the embarrassing succession of corruption scandals. In 2005, he was charged and later acquitted of raping the daughter of a family friend. In that same year, he was charged with corruption over a multi-billion-dollar arms deal.

The charges were dropped shortly before he was sworn in as president in 2009. In 2016, a court ruled that he had been in breach of his oath of office after using government money to upgrade his private home in Nkandla. He had to refund the money. There is a subsisting 12-count charge involving money-laundering, corruption, fraud and racketeering that has been levelled against him by the National Prosecuting Authority.

Jacob Zuma sprang from the ranks of the unwashed hoi-polloi. Whatever he picked up by way of an education was from the trenches, unlike ANC leaders such as Z. K. Matthews, Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo and Thabo Mbeki, who were intellectuals.

On December 9, 2015, President Zuma fired his Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene. The man was apparently opposed to a financially ruinous one trillion Rand nuclear power deal with the Russians. South Africa has faced severe power shortages due to load shedding, operational issues, and ageing equipment.

The national power company, Eskom, reveals that it is barely able to sustain 13,000 MW of its nominal capacity of 47,000 MW. David Van Rooyen was brought in as a replacement for Nene. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange lost a staggering R500 billion. The president was forced to replace Van Rooyen with Pravin Gordhan.

In March 2021, the Commission applied to the Constitutional Court to sentence Jacob Zuma for two years in prison for contempt of court. Zuma went ahead to issue a statement accusing the judicature of “judicial dictatorship”. In the following month of April, the Constitutional Court sent a memorandum to Zuma asking to know what he himself would consider to be an appropriate sentence for contempt of court, to which he responded: “I cannot assist the court to violate my constitutional rights by telling them what kind of punishment they must impose”.

On June 29, the Constitutional Court found him guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months in prison. For several weeks he had refused to turn himself in. Many of his supporters had made a human shield at his country home of Nkandla to prevent him from being arrested. At the end, he had to do the right thing.

The Constitutional Court sentenced Mr. Zuma to 15 months in jail on June 29 after he repeatedly refused to appear at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture as he was accused of enabling the plunder of state coffers during his nearly nine-year stay in office from 2009 to 2018.

The court had given him time till July 4 to turn himself over to the police to serve his jail term.

The court said on July 3 that it will hear an application filed by Mr. Zuma on July 12 to have the ruling rescinded, effectively giving him a reprieve of one more week.

“I am advised that before I walk through the prison doors to serve my sentence as the first direct prisoner of the Constitutional Court under our constitutional democracy, it will not be futile to make one last attempt to invite the Constitutional Court to relook its decision…,” Independent Online, a news website, quoted Mr. Zuma’s plea as saying.

The court’s decision came amid rising tensions in the country as scores of African National Congress (ANC) military veterans and other supporters gathered outside Mr. sZuma’s homestead in rural Nkandla in the past three days, with some of them threatening violence if he is taken to prison.

On Monday, angry supporters looted shops and set fire to buildings in protests.The looting followed a weekend of unrest by protesters, mainly been concentrated in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), with some spilling into the main commercial city of Johannesburg.

A police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zuma’s core supporters, echoing his position, say he is the victim of a political witch hunt orchestrated by allies of his successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa said on Sunday there was no justification for violence and that it was damaging efforts to rebuild the economy, damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zuma’s jailing marks a significant fall for an important figure in the liberation-movement-turned ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). He was once jailed by South Africa’s white minority rulers for his efforts to make all citizens equal before the law.

The corruption inquiry that Zuma has refused to cooperate with is examining allegations that he allowed three Indian-born businessmen, Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, to plunder state resources and peddle influence over government policy. He and the Gupta brothers, who fled after his ouster and are believed to be living in Dubai, deny wrongdoing.

Zuma also faces a corruption case relating to a $2 billion arms deal in 1999 when he was deputy president. He denies the charges in that case.

The decision to jail him resulted from legal proceedings seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law, including against powerful politicians.

In the virtual hearing, Zuma’s counsel asked the court to rescind his jail term, relying on a rule that judgments can be reconsidered if made in the absence of the affected person or containing a patent error.

Legal experts say Zuma’s chances of success are slim.


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