A court in South Africa has handed former President Jacob Zuma, a 15-month jail term for contempt of court following his refusal to appear before it for prosecution.
The 79-year-old Zuma is accused of enabling the plunder of state coffers during his nearly nine-year stay in office but has consistently refused to honour summons to appear before investigators, prompting the court to slam him with the sentence on Tuesday.
“The Constitutional Court can do nothing but conclude that Mr Zuma is guilty of the crime of contempt of court,” judge Sisi Khampepe said, while delivering judgement.
“This kind of recalcitrance and defiance is unlawful and will be punished.
“I am left with no option but to commit Mr Zuma to imprisonment, with the hope that doing so sends an unequivocal message… the rule of law and the administration of justice prevails.
“The majority judgement orders an unsuspended sentence of imprisonment for a period of 15 months,” the judge declared.
The commission of inquiry, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, was set up by Zuma himself, under pressure over mounting scandals, shortly before he was ousted in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
But he only testified once, in July 2019, before staging a walkout days later and accusing the commission of bias.
He then ignored several invitations to reappear, citing medical reasons and preparations for another corruption trial.
Most of the graft investigated by the commission involved three brothers from a wealthy Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative government contracts and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.
Zuma is separately facing 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to a 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military gear from five European arms firms for 30 billion rand, then the equivalent of nearly £3.6bn.
At the time of the purchase, Zuma was president Thabo Mbeki’s deputy.
He is also accused of accepting bribes totalling four million rand from one of the firms, French defence giant, Thales.
Zuma will now have to show up at a police station near his home in northern KwaZulu Natal within five days and if he fails to do so, the police have three days to go and pick him up.
By Isaac Dachen
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