Zuma’s Stalingrad defence fails as he goes to prison

This year is a very different year for Jacob Zuma and is a stark contrast to 2008 when he was flanked by powerful leaders.

Former President Jacob Zuma at the state capture commission on 15 July 2019. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Some argue that former President Jacob Zuma is not as powerful as he once was - at least when it comes to his allies in and outside of the African National Congress (ANC).

At the height of his popularity and influence, the former president drew thousands of people.

But on Wednesday night - despite repeated promises of human shields and other threats - far fewer people came to his defence.

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 and he was sentenced to 15 months behind bars.

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

He was arrested at the eleventh-hour, about 45 minutes before the deadline.

Zuma has tried every tactic possible to avoid going to jail. He evaded appearing at the state capture commission after being subpoenaed. He did not hand himself over by Sunday, as per the Constitutional Court ruling. The former president launched an application on Tuesday at the Pietermaritzburg High Court to stay his arrest. His lawyers also went back to Constitutional Court justices late on Wednesday afternoon, asking for a reprieve in the face of pending arrest. Finally, his convoy was seen leaving his homestead at the 11th hour - 45 minutes before the midnight deadline for his arrest.

This year is a very different year for Zuma. It's a stark contrast to 2008, when he was flanked by the likes of Julius Malema (as ANC Youth League leader), Gwede Mantashe (then ANC secretary general), Zwelinzima Vavi (Congress of South African Trade Unions president at the time) and Blade Nzimade (South African Communist Party's president during that time), who all commanded strong organisations in his favour.

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But they've since, in some shape or form, become his opponents.

A look beyond the general public who went to support the former president at his home at the weekend, Zuma is left with the likes of current suspended ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, convicted fraudster Tony Yengeni suspended disbanded uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association spokesperson Carl Niehaus.

They're all without a stronghold in the ANC. And as for Magashule - he's on the backfoot and fast being pushed towards an exit in the party.

On Sunday, Zuma sought to give a rare media briefing in order to share his views on his sanction. Usually cool under fire, he was testy and showed signs that the pressure was getting to him.

Some even questioned his legal representatives, arguing that the likes of Dali Mpofu were too political and enjoyed the spotlight a little bit to much to focus solely on Zuma's interests.

"That power is gone. The key to people of power... it's not effective when used, it's effective when it deters the political opponent from actually doing what you don't want them to do," Nelson Mandela University political analyst Ongama Mtimka told Eyewitness News.

As Zuma continues to fight his sentence, many say the greatest truth behind his legacy will be his relentless battle against the law, which has tested South Africa's democracy and adherence to the rule of law.

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