Uncertainty persisted until the last minute: former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt and was due to be arrested just before midnight on Wednesday, was finally taken prisoner shortly before.
Half an hour before the end of the ultimatum, a ship of ten cars sped off to Mr. Nkandla in Zulu (East). The AFP reported at the scene that Zuma had left his home. He was not seen or heard of, but until late in the evening, after a 9-night curfew order in the country, dozens of supporters sang and danced, some men wearing traditional animal leather helmets.
Finally the news broke with a tweet: “President Zuma has decided to comply with the prison order. He is going to a correctional facility in KwaZulu-Natal province, the foundation that represents him said.
“Former South African President Jacob Zuma has been remanded in custody,” police said on Twitter.
Mr Zuma was sentenced last week by the country’s Supreme Court. He had until Sunday evening to surrender, otherwise police were ordered to arrest him by midnight on Wednesday (GMT until 10pm).
The former president, who is well acquainted with the courts, received the Constitutional Court on July 12 to reconsider his sentence in a new trial. He also demanded that his arrest be stayed, but the decision should be delivered by a court in Petersburg (East) on Friday.
– Uncertainty Week –
These legal actions have raised suspicions that he was arrested.
His son Edward Zuma, who spoke in the evening to the charismatic leader’s faithful gathered in Nkandla, confirmed that he had to “cross the body” to enter the property, and that his father was “in his best condition”.
Mr. Police have hinted in recent days that they may drop arresting Zuma. In a letter sent to the Constitutional Court on Monday, he announced that the judiciary would not intervene before the results of the appeal.
But in a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday morning, Police Minister Becky Sele said he was “not prepared to face criminal charges” for failing to comply with the order.
Jacob Zuma, who questioned the impartiality of the judges, called for his sentence to be commuted to “unstable” state of health, arguing that a prison would condemn him to the “death penalty” in the context of an epidemic.
He also warned that in front of his supporters on Saturday, police would expect violence if he “dared” to arrest him. The next day, he laughed, “I don’t need to go to jail today”.
Mr. Zuma was accused of plundering public resources during his nine-year rule (2009-2018). Since the formation of the Commission of Inquiry into State Corruption in 2018, some forty witnesses have been involved. Zuma has stepped up efforts to prevent him from testifying, which has led to his condemnation of the prison he closed.
The ruling National Congress (ANC), which has more loyal supporters than the former head of state and has been undermined by a secessionist war, has announced that it will not make “political intervention”.
Trapped in corruption, Jacob Zuma was forced to resign in 2018. His successor Cyril Ramaphosa has turned the fight against corruption into a war horse, but the Anti-Corruption Commission must also listen.