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BREAKING: Fmr. South Africa President, Jacob Zuma Jailed

South Africa’s top court has said former president Jacob Zuma should be jailed for defying an order to attend an inquiry into allegations of corruption under his presidency.

“The only appropriate sanction is a direct, unsuspended order of imprisonment” lasting 15 months, the constitutional court said in a judgment on Tuesday.

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This is the first time a former president of South Africa has been told to go jail since the end of apartheid. The case was a major test for the judiciary and the inquiry. Zuma “sought to ignore, undermine and in many ways destroy the rule of law altogether,” the court said.

Zuma must turn himself in to police within five days. If he fails to do so, the police must “take all steps necessary” within three days to ensure that he goes to jail, the court said.

The court said Zuma was in contempt of court and it was responding to “a series of direct assaults and calculated and insidious efforts by [Zuma] to contest its legitimacy”. It added: “The strength of the judiciary is being tested . . . never before has the judicial process been so threatened.”

The former president had ignored an order to appear before the commission of inquiry into corruption and Raymond Zondo, South Africa’s deputy chief justice and the head of the inquiry, had sought to have him jailed for his defiance.

The long-running inquiry has been investigating claims that Zuma helped the Guptas, a well-known business family, secure state contracts and determine policy, in what became known as the ‘state capture’ scandal. The Guptas and Zuma deny wrongdoing.

Zuma was forced to step down in 2018 over corruption scandals and the inquiry has become one of the most powerful symbols of the clean-up under Zuma’s successor Cyril Ramaphosa — as well as of its limitations and torpor. “His conduct flies in the face of the obligation he bore as a president” to uphold the rule of law, the constitutional court said.

Zuma established the inquiry weeks before he fell from power after an order by South Africa’s public protector, or government ombudsman. Since then, dozens of witnesses have implicated the former president in systematic corruption, including the manipulation of ministerial appointments and contracts to favour the business empire of the Indian-born family.

Zuma made one brief appearance before the inquiry in 2019 to deny involvement in corruption and to claim that his accusers were part of a western-sponsored “drive to remove me from the scene”.

But at his next appearance, he refused to answer questions and staged a walkout and has not returned to the witness stand.

The former president has also refused to engage with the constitutional court, declining to respond when the justices asked him what sentence would be most appropriate for him if they found that he must be jailed.

“It is not our law that I defy, but a few lawless judges who have left their constitutional post for political expediency,” Zuma said, referring to Zondo and the justices at the constitutional court.

Zuma, who was a prisoner in the notorious apartheid-era jail at Robben Island and ANC intelligence boss during the anti-apartheid struggle, has said that he would rather face jail than follow an order to return to the inquiry.

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