NKANDLA, South Africa – Former South African President Jacob Zuma surrendered to police on Thursday morning to begin serving a 15-month prison sentence.
Minutes before the midnight deadline for police arrest, Zuma left his home in Nkandla in a convoy of vehicles. Zuma has decided to surrender to the authorities to obey the order of the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, that he should serve a prison sentence for contempt of court.
“President Zuma has decided to comply with the jail order. He is about to visit a correctional facility in KZN (KwaZulu-Natal province), “said a tweet released by the Zuma Foundation.
Shortly after, South African police confirmed that Zuma was in their custody.
Zuma’s decision to obey the Constitutional Court’s order comes after a week of growing tensions over his prison term.
Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt for defying a court order requiring him to testify before a judicial commission investigating allegations of widespread corruption during his tenure as the country’s president from 2009 to 2018.
The Constitutional Court has ordered that if Zuma does not voluntarily surrender to the police, the police should arrest the country’s former president at the end of the day on Wednesday.
In a last-minute plea to avoid going to jail, Zuma’s lawyers wrote to the acting chief justice to request that his arrest be stayed until Friday, when a regional court is due to rule on his request for postponement of arrest.
Zuma’s attorneys have called on the acting chief justice to issue guidelines preventing police from arresting him, saying there would be “damage to his life.”
The Supreme Court met on Wednesday evening, according to local reports, but apparently denied Zuma’s request.
Zuma had also launched two legal proceedings to avoid being arrested after his conviction last week.
He asked the Constitutional Court to quash his sentence and this request will be heard on July 12.
Political tensions have increased in KwaZulu-Natal province following the conviction, conviction and impending arrest of Zuma. Hundreds of his supporters gathered at his home over the weekend and vowed to prevent his arrest, but left on Sunday.
The judicial investigation into corruption during his tenure as president heard damning testimonies from former ministers and senior executives of state-owned enterprises that Zuma allowed his associates, members of the Gupta family, to influence his Cabinet appointments and lucrative contracts. Zuma refused to comply with a court order to appear before the commission, which led the Constitutional Court to find him in contempt and to sentence him to prison.
In a separate case, Zuma is on trial on corruption charges linked to a 1999 arms deal, where he allegedly received bribes from French arms maker Thales. His financial adviser has already been convicted and jailed in this case.