Former president Jacob Zuma hands himself over to serve 15-month jail term

In terms of a Constitutional Court ruling, Jacob Zuma was meant to hand himself over to police on 4 June, failing which police had three days to arrest him.

FILE: Former South African President Jacob Zuma removes his eyeglasses as he addresses the media at his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal on 4 July 2021. Picture: Emmanuel Croset/AFP

DURBAN - Former President Jacob Zuma was, at the last hour, taken in by police to begin his 15-month jail sentence. He will spend the night behind bars at an unnamed correctional services centre in KwaZulu-Natal.

Police Ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba confirmed that Zuma was in police charge.

"The Police Ministry can confirm that former President of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma, was placed in SA Police Service custody as in compliance with the Constitutional Court judgment," she shared through a tweet.

The Jacob Zuma Foundation sent confirmation at 11:47 pm, saying a full statement would be issued in due course. A motorcade was seen leaving his home at 11:15 pm on Wednesday night.

"Dear South Africans and the World. Please be advised that President Zuma has decided to comply with the incarceration order. He is on his way to hand himself into a Correctional Services Facility in KZN. A full statement will be issued in due course," it said through a tweet.

Zuma was meant to hand himself over to police on Sunday, 4 June, failing which police had three days to arrest him, making the final deadline midnight on Wednesday.

On 29 June, a scathing Constitutional Court judgment found him guilty of being in contempt of a ruling that said he must appear and participate at the state capture commission, for which he was sentenced to incarceration.

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Zuma asked the justices of the apex court to reconsider their ruling through a rescission application, but this does not automatically stay his arrest. Zuma also turned to the High Court in an attempt to stay out of prison.

On Tuesday, the former president's lawyer, Dali Mpofu, asked the Pietermaritzburg High Court to freeze his arrest warrant and jail term pending the outcome of his rescission application in the Constitutional Court.

The state capture commission opposed Zuma’s legal bid in the High Court, saying it did not have the power to overturn a committal by the Constitutional Court.

Judgment by the Pietermaritzburg High Court has been reserved until Friday.

Just five hours before the midnight deadline, Zuma returned to the source of his current legal woes - Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo - asking for a reprieve in the face of pending arrest.

Zondo is currently the acting Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court.

Zuma requested that the directive be moved until after his application for a rescission has been heard.

'SENDING ME TO JAIL IS LIKE A DEATH SENTENCE'

On Sunday night, Zuma gave a public address live from his Nkandla home, saying the move by the Constitutional Court to send him to jail without a trial was tantamount to a death sentence.

"The death sentence was declared unconstitutional in South Africa in 1995 as a result of my sacrifice and those of millions of South Africans," he said. "Sending me to jail during the height of a pandemic at my age is the same as sentencing me to death."

READ: Jacob Zuma's address after ConCourt ruling against him

Earlier on Sunday, Zuma addressed his supporters who gathered outside his house, telling them that he was not aware of any transgressions by him despite the ruling.

He also accused Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo of being biased against him.

"I made a submission to Judge Zondo, pointing out exact details to support my contention that he is not neutral. He also made his own submission to disprove my contention and subsequently ruled that his own submission is victorious. This then meant that I was now forced to appear before somebody I have accused of bias and conflict of interest," Zuma said.

He stated that "had Judge Zondo simply recused himself and allowed my submission to be made to somebody neutral, the people of South Africa would have heard my version with regards to all the unsubstantiated allegations against me".

During his address, he also likened the COVID-19 lockdown to what happened during apartheid.

"We have a level four lockdown, with all hallmarks of a state of emergency, and the curfews of the 1980s. The only difference is that we only use different levels, like contempt of court instead of detention without trial. But the substance is exactly the same. Being jailed without a trial is no different to the apartheid detention without trial."

Earlier on Wednesday, Police Minister Bheki Cele said that if there was no clarity from the apex court on whether officers should wait for the outcome of Zuma's other court applications, the former president would be taken into custody by the midnight deadline.

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