Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court after failing to appear before a corruption investigation earlier this year.
Zuma, 79, who was president for nearly nine years until 2018, was not present to hear the South African constitutional court deliver its ruling and sentence. The judge ordered the former president to surrender within five days.
Zuma did not appear in the corruption investigation led by Supreme Court Vice President Raymond Zondo in February. The investigation is examining high-level corruption allegations during Zuma’s time in power. The veteran politician denies wrongdoing and has claimed that Zondo is carrying out personal revenge.
On Tuesday, Judge Sisi Khampepe said: “The constitutional court can do nothing but conclude that Mr. Zuma is guilty of the crime of contempt of court.”
He added: “This kind of defiance and defiance is illegal and will be punished. I have no choice but to send Mr. Zuma to prison, in the hope that by doing so he will send an unequivocal message … the rule of law and the administration of justice prevail.
“The majority sentence orders a prison sentence not suspended for a period [of 15 months]. “
The corruption investigation was launched by Zuma himself, under pressure from mounting scandals, shortly before he was toppled in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
But he testified only once, in July 2019, before going on strike days later. He ignored several invitations to reappear, citing medical reasons and preparations for another corruption trial.
He briefly appeared again in November, but left before being questioned.
In February, Zondo said he would seek an order from the constitutional court that Zuma was in contempt of court and press for a jail sentence.
“This is very serious because if it is allowed to prevail, there will be lawlessness and chaos in the courts. There may be other people who decide to follow suit when served with a subpoena in other court proceedings, ”Zondo said.
“If the message being sent is that people can ignore or ignore subpoenas and court orders with impunity, there will be very little left of our democracy.”
Most of the alleged corruption the commission investigates involves three brothers from a wealthy Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative government contracts and were allegedly even able to elect cabinet ministers.
Zuma separately faces 16 counts of fraud, corruption and extortion related to the 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment from five European arms firms for R30 billion, then the equivalent of almost $ 5 billion. . At the time of the purchase, Zuma was deputy to President Thabo Mbeki.
At a court hearing last month, he pleaded not guilty and told the court that the prosecution was politically motivated, accusing government attorneys of working “not to find the truth but to reinforce the narrative of a corrupt political leader.”
Zuma’s successor as president, Cyril Ramaphosa, a labor activist turned wealthy mogul, has taken steps to root out corruption. Ramaphosa took office as South African president after a bitter internal battle within the ANC and amid public outrage over allegations of mismanagement and systemic corruption.
The anger has been fueled by a series of scandals involving huge sums corruptly won in government contracts for emergency supplies to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and grants to support those most in need.
In recent days, new Covid restrictions have been introduced in an attempt to curb a sharp increase in cases driven by the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, weak countermeasures, and public fatigue with existing restrictions.
All gatherings, indoors and outdoors, have been banned for 14 days, along with the sale of alcohol, restaurant dinners and travel to or from the worst affected areas of the country. An extended curfew has been imposed and schools close early for holidays.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism