South Africa’s highest court agrees to hear former President Jacob Zuma’s challenge to his 15-month sentence for contempt.
South Africa’s Constitutional Court has accepted to hear former President Jacob Zuma’s challenge to overturn an order sentencing him to 15 months in prison for contempt.
The Constitutional Court on Tuesday sentenced Zuma to 15 months in prison for failing to appear at the corruption investigation led by Vice President Raymond Zondo in February.
The former president had until the end of Sunday to surrender, after which police would be forced to arrest him. But the court agreed on Saturday to hear his request on July 12.
Al Jazeera correspondent Fahmida Miller, reporting from Nkandla, South Africa, said that instead of “surrendering by tomorrow or being arrested in the next few days … himself.”
Miller said that prior to sentencing, the chief had had various opportunities to voice his concerns.
“He ignored [the opportunities]”Miller said.” And now it looks like just a day before he’s supposed to surrender he’s ready to speak to the Constitutional Court, “she added.
Zuma called the conviction a “political statement of exemplary punishment.” He argued that he was the victim of a political witch hunt and that Zondo was biased against him.
In his request to quash the decision submitted on Friday, Zuma said going to jail “would put him at the highest risk of death” from the pandemic as he is nearly 80 years old and has a health problem.
Thousands of his supporters, mostly members of the Umkhonto Wesizwe military wing of the African National Congress, have been camping for weeks outside his home in Kwa-Zulu Natal province.
On Saturday, hundreds of them marched alongside Zuma in his hometown of Nkandla.
“They can give Zuma 15 months… or 100 months. He won’t even be used for a day or a minute, ”his son Edward Zuma told Reuters news agency at the rally. “They should kill me before they get their hands on him.”
Zuma, who has not spoken to his supporters but is expected to address them on Sunday, wore a black and gold tropical shirt as he walked through the crowd, but no mask. He was guarded by men dressed as traditional warriors of his Zulu nation, wearing leopard skins and holding spears with oval cowhide shields.
Tension mounted this week as members of the Umkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) threatened that the country would be destabilized if the former leader was apprehended, vowing to form a human shield around Zuma.
Fearing a confrontation, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said it had postponed a scheduled meeting of its top national executive committee this weekend.
Numerous convoys of local provincial leaders, including ANC KwaZulu Natal Secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli and Provincial Premier Sihle Zikalala were spotted on the property.
Zuma’s ally Carl Niehaus told AFP the former president was on his farm on Saturday to meet with spiritual leaders.