The South African Supreme Court has said former President Jacob Zuma should be jailed for challenging an order to participate in an investigation into allegations of corruption under his presidency.
“The only appropriate sanction is a 15-month direct, suspended prison order,” the constitutional court said in a ruling Tuesday.
This is the first time a former South African president has been said to have gone to prison since the end of apartheid. The case was a major test for the judiciary and the investigation. Zuma “sought to ignore, undermine and in many ways destroy the entire rule of law,” the court said.
Zuma must return him to police in five days. If he fails to do so, the police must “take all necessary measures” within three days to ensure he enters prison, the court said.
The court said Zuma despised the court and responded to “a series of direct assaults and calculated and insidious efforts by [Zuma] to challenge its legitimacy. “He added:” The strength of the judiciary is being tested… never before has the judicial process been so threatened. “
The former president had ignored the order to appear before the commission of inquiry into corruption and Raymond Zondo, deputy South African justice and head of the investigation, had tried to get him charged for his challenge.
The long-running investigation investigated claims that Zuma helped the Guptas, a famous business family, secure state contracts and determine policy, in what has become the “state capture” scandal. The Guptas and Zuma refuse to do any harm.
Zuma was forced to leave in 2018 due to corruption scandals and the investigation has become one of the most powerful police symbols under Zuma’s successor, Cyril Ramaphosa – as well as his limitations and torpor. “His behavior flies in the face of his obligation as president” to defend the rule of law, the constitutional court said.
Zuma set the investigation weeks before he fell from power following an order from the South African public prosecutor, or government defender. Since then, dozens of witnesses have implicated the former president in systematic corruption, including the manipulation of ministerial appointments and contracts to support the Indian family’s business empire.
Zuma made a brief appearance ahead of the investigation in 2019 to deny involvement in corruption and to claim that his accusers were part of a “Western-sponsored push to get me out of the scene.”
But on his next appearance, he refused to answer questions and made a pass and did not return to the witness stand.
The former president also refused to engage with the constitutional court, refusing to respond when judges asked him which sentence would be most appropriate for him if they found he should be jailed.
“It is not our law that I challenge, but a few lawless judges who have left their constitutional place for political convenience,” Zuma said, referring to Zondo and the judges of the constitutional court.
Zuma, who was a prisoner in the notorious apartheid prison on Robben Island and head of the ANC’s intelligence during the anti-apartheid struggle, said he would rather face prison than follow an order to return to the investigation.