On Friday, July 9, former South African President Jacob Zuma lost a court bid to overturn his contempt arrests, days after he was sentenced to 15 months in prison in a case that challenged the country’s rule of law after apartheid.
“The request has been denied,” said the president of the court.
The Constitutional Court last week ordered Zuma’s imprisonment for refusing to testify in a corruption investigation for nine years in office since 2009. Although he surrendered on Wednesday evening, Zuma opposed his sentence.
The Constitutional Court will hear his challenge, which depends to some extent on his poor health and risk of contracting Covid-19, in a separate case on Monday, but Friday’s Supreme Court decision means he must remain in prison until the end of this hearing.
A Pietermaritzburg High Court judge said that Mr Zuma’s concerns about his health are not supported by any evidence.
The decision comes less than an hour after the Johannesburg High Court rejected an application by African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Ace Magashule to revoke his suspension of corruption in separate cases. Read more
The two politicians’ policies are seen as a test of South Africa’s ability to use the law fairly – even against powerful politicians – 27 years after the ANC ousted a few white South African leaders to establish democracy.
For Zuma, the prison order was also seen as the most shocking aspect of his journey from a respected anti-apartheid activist to a politician tainted by allegations of ignorance and corruption, which they all deny.
As a member of the ANC when it was a liberation movement, Zuma was imprisoned by a few white South African leaders for his efforts to establish a government that would treat citizens equally.
The change of ANC power
Zuma’s reluctance to submit to criminal charges and the suspension of Magashule marks a victory for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to consolidate power over his non-partisan party. Magashule has joined Zuma’s ANC faction, which has become the strongest internal opposition to the president.
“The oxygen of the free coalition that forms the (Zuma) faction within the ANC is slowly dying,” political scientist Daniel Silke said.
Zuma’s supporters, however, support his claim to be a victim of political witch hunts.
An hour before the verdict, a Reuters photographer saw a group of protesters shouting “Zuma!”, Burning tires and blocking a road leading to Durban, the capital of Zuma’s KwaZulu-Natal province.
The corruption investigation investigates allegations that Zuma allowed three Indian businessmen, Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, to loot government resources and exert influence over government policy. He and the Gupta brothers, who fled South Africa after Zuma’s ouster, deny any wrongdoing.
Zuma is also facing another lawsuit related to the $ 2 billion arms deal in 1999 when he was vice president. He denies the allegations.