This is indeed a victory for all South Africans that have become (sick and tired) with those who have looted our country with impunity.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma, 79, was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Tuesday for Contempt after he defied a court order to appear at an inquiry investigating corruption during his nine years in office.
It is the first time in South Africa’s history that a former president is going to prison. By jailing the former president, South Africa’s highest court proves its courage to enforce the rule of law. “Finally, Zuma will find himself where he belongs – behind bars,” opposition lawmaker Herman Mashaba said in a statement.
While Zuma was not in court for the ruling, the judged called for Zuma to either surrender to police in five days in his hometown of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province or Johannesburg or the South African police will arrest him.
Mashaba also went to say, “This is indeed a victory for all South Africans that have become (sick and tired) with those who have looted our country with impunity.”
“The judgment is equally a victory for the rule of law in South Africa, once again serving to highlight the independence of our judiciary – which is a central pillar of our hard-won democracy.”
Zuma failed to appear at February’s inquiry being conducted by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. His failure led to the lawyers asking the Constitutional Court to intervene.
The Constitutional Court, the country’s highest, found that Zuma not only refused to cooperate with the inquiry commission but also tried to weaken the legitimacy of the commission and the judiciary by mounting a “smear campaign.”
“The Constitutional Court holds that there can be no doubt that Mr. Zuma is in Contempt of court. Mr. Zuma was served with the order, and it is impossible to conclude anything other than that he was unequivocally aware of what is required of him,” acting Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe said in the court’s ruling.
Rather than appearing at the inquiry, Zuma “elected instead to make provocative, unmeritorious and vituperative statements that constituted a calculated effort to impugn the integrity of the judiciary,” the ruling continued.
Since the election of Nelson Mandela as the first black president of South Africa, no other leader in the country’s history has done more to corrupt post-apartheid South Africa than former president Jacob Zuma.
Mr. Zuma had faced a mountain of corruption, fraud, money laundering, and racketeering charges related to an arms deal. These include roughly 800 payments made to Mr. Zuma by a former financial adviser who was convicted of rampant corruption.
For years, the highly unpopular Jacob Zuma had disregarded calls to step down. Massive protest under the banner “Zuma must fall” did not move the former president.
In 2016, South Africa’s Constitutional Court found Mr. Zuma guilty of violating the constitution by failing to pay back public funds spent on renovating his private rural estate.
Although the South African ANC party tolerated Mr. Zuma’s corruption scandals for years – everything changed when the party recognized that Mr. Zuma’s unpopularity would lead to their downfall.
While the ANC booted Mr. Zuma out of their party, the number of investigative reporters, civil-society groups, and opposition parties that reported Mr. Zuma’s corruption allegations over the years took actions to South Africa’s courts forced actions against Mr. Zuma.
Events leading to Contempt
In 2018, Cyril Ramaphosa replaced Jacob Zuma as president of South Africa. But, instead of working with the new president, Zuma and his army of cronies worked vigorously to undermine all attempts by the president and South African courts to clean up their corrupt stain on South Africa.
Zuma openly and repeatedly rejected summons to appear before the court and failed to turn up even after the highest court in South Africa ordered him to do so. This failure to appear before the Constitutional Court led to his contempt charges – there are no appeals to this ruling. At age 79, Zuma will probably spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Ironically, Zuma’s life has taken a complete detour from Mandela, who spent his early years in prison and the rest of his life a free man. In contrast, Zuma was free during his early days and may spend the rest of his life behind bars.