South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma is in custody after handing himself over to police, the culmination of a long legal drama seen as a test of the post-apartheid state’s ability to enforce the rule of law.
- Jacob Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for failing to appear at an inquiry into his presidency
- The former president had until Wednesday night to hand himself over to police
- Hundreds of former president’s supporters, some of them armed, had gathered near his home to try to prevent his arrest
Zuma, 79, was handed a 15-month prison term last week for defying an instruction earlier in February to give evidence at an inquiry into corruption during his nine years in power until 2018.
South Africa’s Constitutional Court gave the former leader, who was not in court for the sentencing, until Wednesday night (local time) to hand himself over to authorities.
Police spokesperson Lirandzu Themba confirmed in a statement that Zuma was in police custody, in compliance with the Constitutional Court judgment.
The Department of Correctional Services said in a separate statement that Zuma was admitted to Estcourt Correctional Centre, about 175 kilometres from his rural homestead in Nkandla in eastern South Africa.
Police had been instructed to arrest Zuma by the end of Wednesday if he failed to appear at a police station.
Hundreds of his supporters, some of them armed with guns, spears and shields, had gathered near his homestead to try to prevent his arrest.
But in the end, Zuma decided to go quietly.
“President Zuma has decided to comply with the incarceration order,” his foundation said.
It was a remarkable fall for a revered veteran of the African National Congress liberation movement, who was jailed by South Africa’s white minority rulers.
Zuma denies there was widespread corruption under his leadership.
His lawyers asked the Constitutional Court on Wednesday to suspend its arrest order until his challenge against his sentence was heard.
The corruption inquiry is examining allegations he allowed three Indian-born businessmen, Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, to plunder state resources and traffic influence over government policy.
He and the Gupta brothers, who fled to Dubai after Zuma was ousted, deny any wrongdoing.
Zuma also faces a separate court case relating to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal in 1999 when he was deputy president. He denies the allegations related to the case.
The former president maintains he is the victim of a political witch-hunt and that Deputy Chief Zondo is biased against him.