Ex-South African leader surrenders to jail time

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NKANDLA, South Africa (AP) – Former South African President Jacob Zuma surrendered to police on Thursday morning to begin serving a 15-month prison sentence.

Minutes before the midnight deadline for police to arrest him, Zuma left his home in Nkandla in a convoy of vehicles. Zuma has surrendered to authorities to obey the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, that he should serve a prison sentence for contempt.

“President Zuma has decided to comply with the jail order. He is about to visit a correctional facility in KZN (KwaZulu-Natal province), ”said a tweet posted by the Zuma Foundation.

Shortly after, South African police confirmed that Zuma was in their custody.

Zuma’s jail comes after a week of growing tensions over his sentence.

Zuma, 79, was sentenced to jail for contempt for defying a court order requiring him to testify before a judicial commission investigating allegations of widespread corruption during his tenure as the country’s president, 2009 to 2018.

The Constitutional Court has ordered that if Zuma does not voluntarily surrender to the police, the police should arrest the country’s former president at the end of the day on Wednesday.

In a last-minute plea to avoid going to jail, Zuma’s lawyers wrote to the acting chief justice to request that his arrest be stayed until Friday, when a regional court is due to rule on his request for postponement of arrest.

Zuma’s lawyers have called on the acting chief justice to issue directives preventing police from arresting him, saying there would be “damage to his life.”

Zuma had also launched two legal proceedings to avoid being arrested after his conviction last week.

He asked the Constitutional Court to quash his sentence and this request will be heard on July 12.

On Tuesday, his lawyers were before the High Court in Pietermaritzburg to prevent the Minister of Police from arresting him until the Constitutional Court rules on his request. The regional court will rule on this request on Friday.

Political tensions have increased in KwaZulu-Natal province following the conviction, conviction and impending arrest of Zuma. Hundreds of his supporters gathered at his home over the weekend and vowed to prevent his arrest, but left on Sunday.

The judicial investigation into corruption during his tenure as president heard damning testimonies from former ministers and senior executives of state-owned enterprises that Zuma allowed his associates, members of the Gupta family, to influence his Cabinet appointments and lucrative contracts. Zuma refused to comply with a court order to appear before the commission, which led the Constitutional Court to find him in contempt and sentence him to prison.

In a separate case, Zuma is on trial on corruption charges linked to a 1999 arms deal, where he allegedly received bribes from French arms maker Thales. His financial adviser has already been convicted and jailed in this case.

Zuma had other legal issues. In 2005 he was charged with rape but was acquitted in 2006 after the court found the sex to be consensual.

Zuma rebounded to become president in 2009. But in 2018, growing evidence of widespread corruption in his administration led his party, the ruling African National Congress, to force him out of office.

Although now tarnished by the scandal, Zuma had forged a reputation as a staunch opponent of apartheid, South Africa’s former regime of severe white minority rule. He was jailed for 10 years at Robben Island prison where political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, were held.

When he was released in 1973, Zuma left the country to continue his work in the African National Congress, traveling through countries such as Swaziland, Zambia and Mozambique.

By the time South Africa legalized the ANC in 1990, Zuma was a senior party official and was involved in the political settlement negotiations that led to the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

Zuma’s reputation in the new South Africa was further strengthened when he was deployed to his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, where he helped resolve the political violence that threatened to derail the country’s progress towards a democratic and non-racial society.

Zuma’s political reputation will be tainted by the corruption scandals surrounding him, said Lesiba Teffo, senior lecturer in politics at the University of South Africa.

“It is very disappointing to see a man who has done so much for the country, a hero of liberation, now reduced to zero,” Teffo said. “He is a man who fought fiercely for the liberation of this country, but like many African leaders on our continent, he has fallen on the altar of money.

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