PMB High Court dismisses Jacob Zuma's bid to stay arrest

Jacob Zuma is the first president of democratic South Africa to be arrested, and the first president of South Africa ever to be jailed.

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

JOHANNESBURG - Judge Bhekisisa Mnguni on Friday dismissed former President Jacob Zuma's application to stay his arrest.

Mnguni delivered the judgment in the Pietermaritzburg High Court as Zuma spends his third day at the Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal.

His “application is dismissed” ruling was handed down swiftly after all parties in the matter introduced themselves before the court. And that was the end of it – with the judge electing not to read the full judgement.

Zuma approached the court on an urgent basis when he was supposed to hand himself over to the police on Sunday – as per the instructions of the constitutional court ruling.

The apex court sentenced Zuma to jail after the state capture commission filed contempt charges against him when he refused to appear before the inquiry.

Along with the action that was launched in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, the former president also applied to the constitutional court to have the sentencing judgment rescinded.

The matter will only be heard on Monday, where it will be determined whether the former president will remain behind bars with no other option for release except parole.

Earlier this week Zuma’s lawyer Dali Mpofu referred to the state capture commission and the Helen Suzman Foundation as “busy-bodies” who had no business to oppose the former president’s bid to stay out of jail - pending the outcome of his rescission application in the Constitutional Court.

Mpofu called on the court to suspend a directive by the apex court that gave Police Minister Bheki Cele and National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole until Wednesday to arrest Zuma and take him to a correctional facility so that he could commence his prison sentence.

But lawyers representing the state capture commission and the Helen Suzman Foundation accused Zuma of attempting to use the Pietermaritzburg High Court to help him break the law.

After a number of dramatic days leading up to his imprisonment, Zuma's speeding convoy left his Nkandla homestead before the Wednesday midnight deadline set by the Constitutional Court.

He is the first president of democratic South Africa to be arrested, and the first president of South Africa ever to be jailed.

'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 essentially sentenced him without a trial, and sending him to jail was tantamount to a death sentence.

"The death sentence was declared unconstitutional in South Africa in 1995. As a result of my sacrificed 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."

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, who heads the state capture inquiry, 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 as regards 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."

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