JOHANNESBURG – Former South African President Jacob Zuma was found in contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months in prison for defying a court order to appear before an investigation into numerous corruption allegations during his term of office from 2009 to 2018.
Zuma was not in court for the ruling on Tuesday and was ordered to surrender within five days to a police station in his hometown of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province or Johannesburg.
If Zuma does not surrender within five days, the South African Minister of Police and the Police Commissioner have been ordered to arrest him within three days.
This is the first time in South African history that a former president has been sentenced to prison.
“Finally, Zuma will find himself in his place – behind bars,” opposition politician Herman Mashaba said in reaction to the conviction.
“This is indeed a victory for all South Africans who are fed up with those who looted our country with impunity,” Mashaba, former mayor of Johannesburg and leader of the ActionSA party, said in a statement. “The judgment is also a victory for the rule of law in South Africa, once again serving to underscore the independence of our justice system. It is a central pillar of our hard-won democracy.
South Africa’s supreme court, the Constitutional Court, ruled that Zuma had defied an order of the country’s highest court by refusing to cooperate with the commission of inquiry, which is chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo .
“The Constitutional Court considers that there is no doubt that Mr. Zuma is guilty of contempt of court. “said Acting Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe.
She added that in determining the prison sentence for Zuma, the court found it impossible to conclude that he would comply with any other order.
“Mr. Zuma has repeatedly stated that he would rather be imprisoned than cooperate with the commission or comply with the order,” Khampepe said.
Zuma has previously expressed his refusal to appear before the commission, which has so far heard evidence directly implicating Zuma in wrongdoing.
In a previous 21-page letter written to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, which the court called “scandalous,” Zuma said he was prepared to be sent to jail.
In his letter which he released to the public, Zuma claimed that the chairman of the commission, Zondo, was biased against him and that the evidence presented against him was politically motivated.
Some former cabinet ministers, senior government officials and heads of state-owned enterprises are among the witnesses who implicated Zuma in corruption.
Several have testified that if President Zuma allowed members of the controversial Gupta family to influence his appointment of ministers and lucrative contracts in state-owned companies.
Zuma also faces other legal issues as he goes on trial to face charges related to bribes he allegedly received in the 1999 Africa arms purchase deal. from South.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and his lawyers have called for the resignation of the lead prosecutor in his case due to alleged bias against Zuma.