Jacob Zuma, former South African president, is arrested

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Written by John Eligon

Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, was taken into custody Wednesday to start serving a 15-month jail sentence, capping a surprising downfall for a once-lauded freedom fighter who battled the apartheid regime alongside Nelson Mandela.

The Constitutional Court, the nation’s highest judicial physique, ordered Zuma’s imprisonment final month after discovering him responsible of contempt for failing to seem earlier than a fee investigating corruption accusations that tainted his tenure because the nation’s chief from 2009-18.

Under Zuma, who was compelled to step down, the extent of crony corruption inside the governing African National Congress Party turned clear, turning a as soon as heralded liberation motion right into a car of self-enrichment for a lot of officers. The corruption led to the gutting of the nation’s tax company, sweetheart enterprise contracts and rivals gunned down in a scramble for wealth and energy.

Zuma, 79, voluntarily surrendered Wednesday, 40 minutes earlier than a midnight deadline for the police at hand him over to jail officers. He was pushed out of his compound in a protracted convoy of vehicles and brought into custody a short while after, police stated. The arrest adopted per week of tense brinkmanship during which the former president and his allies railed towards the excessive courtroom’s determination, suggesting, with out proof, that he was the sufferer of a conspiracy.

Those feedback whipped up Zuma’s supporters, who stationed themselves by the a whole bunch exterior his rural homestead in Nkandla on Sunday and stated that the police must kill them in the event that they wished to get to the former president. But there was little such resistance seen Wednesday evening, and solely the lights of reporters’ cameras illuminated the darkened road exterior the compound.

While a lot of the nation praised the courtroom’s ruling as an affirmation of South Africa’s democratic system and the precept that nobody is above the legislation, the standoff of the previous week uncovered deep divisions on this younger democracy and within the African National Congress, or ANC, the liberation celebration that has dominated the nation since apartheid fell in 1994.

Zuma, whose tenure as president was marked by scandal and mismanagement, is nonetheless a populist determine deeply beloved in some corners, notably amongst Zulus in his house province, KwaZulu-Natal. His loyalists gathered Sunday exterior his compound, a collection of thatched-roof buildings sitting on a slope — a web site that turned related to greed when as president he was accused of utilizing taxpayer cash for upgrades.

Many argued that Zuma’s opponents inside the ANC had sought to make use of the courts to stop him from retaking management of the celebration from his former deputy and the present president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

South Africa’s picture as a pacesetter on the African continent — honed by Mandela and his successor, Thabo Mbeki — took a plunge throughout Zuma’s rule. Zuma, who had no formal education, was seen as a champion of struggling South Africans in rural areas and townships.

But he was dogged by accusations of corruption even earlier than he was elected, and he left the nation with a stagnant economic system, with excessive unemployment and much more deeply mired within the excessive inequality that predated his rule.

The authorities now alleges that tens of billions of {dollars} have been siphoned from state coffers throughout Zuma’s tenure, which he denies.

During a rally Sunday afternoon, Zuma stood on a packed stage to handle his followers, who squeezed shoulder to shoulder, hanging on his each phrase. They laughed at his jokes and chanted battle songs with him. They waved indicators with messages like, “We demand our land that was stolen 573 years ago back,” and, “We refuse to be governed by apartheid spies.”

“I fought for freedom,” Zuma instructed the group. “I was fighting for these very rights. No one will take my rights away. Even the dead that I fought against during the liberation struggle will turn in their graves.”

During a information convention Sunday night, Zuma argued that he was sentenced and not using a trial and in contrast his state of affairs to the apartheid battle.

“I have a duty and obligation to ensure that the dignity and respect for our judiciary is not compromised by sentences that remind our people of apartheid days,” he stated.

Hours after showing on a crowded stage earlier than legions of supporters, typically with out sporting a masks, Zuma additionally instructed the information media that sending somebody his age to jail in a pandemic “is the same as sentencing me to death.”

While he stated his supporters wanted to make use of peaceable means to protest on his behalf, he later stated he couldn’t be held liable for how they reacted.

Fearing that the state of affairs might get out of hand, ANC leaders had dispatched celebration officers to Zuma’s house earlier than the deadline to assist keep calm and dealer an answer. While the arrest of the former president might deepen fractures inside the celebration, senior leaders stated they believed it will not tear the group aside. Past disputes have led to small breakaway events however nothing to shake the dominance of the ANC.

Still, the issues over what was unfolding exterior Zuma’s house have been vital. In an announcement, the celebration stated the state of affairs did “not represent a popular uprising, but has been engineered from within the ranks of the ANC.”

Some ANC leaders nervous a couple of fomenting of Zulu nationalism in a rustic that has fought to maintain ethnic divisions up to now, when the apartheid regime used them to assist keep white minority rule. In its assertion, the ANC stated, “The sustenance of our democracy requires that we constantly ensure the assertion of the values of nonracialism and rejection of any manifestations of ethnic chauvinism.”

Zuma’s jail sentence stemmed from his refusal to testify earlier than the corruption fee led by Justice Raymond Zondo, deputy chief of the Constitutional Court. Zuma defied an order in January and started a pointy public critique of the judiciary.

He then ignored a number of requests from the Constitutional Court to defend his unwillingness to testify. Zuma has stated that he would have testified earlier than the corruption panel if Zondo had recused himself as a result of he felt that the justice was biased towards him.

In saying the courtroom’s determination final month to ship Zuma to jail, Justice Sisi Khampepe, the appearing chief on the time, stated that the former president had carried out “a series of direct assaults” on the judiciary “as well as calculated and insidious efforts” to “corrode its legitimacy and authority.”

“If with impunity litigants are allowed to decide which orders they wish to obey and which they choose to ignore, our constitution is not worth the paper upon which it is written,” she stated, studying from a choice the courtroom backed 7-2.

Days later, Zuma filed a movement asking the courtroom to contemplate rescinding its order of imprisonment. He additionally filed a movement in a decrease courtroom asking it to stop the police from arresting him till after a Constitutional Court listening to Monday to resolve on his movement to rescind.

In a listening to this week within the decrease courtroom, Zuma’s lawyer doubled down on his shopper’s argument that it was unjust for him to be sentenced to jail with out having had a trial. The lawyer, Dali Mpofu, additionally instructed that there could possibly be civil unrest if Zuma have been despatched to jail, referring to a bloodbath in 2012 during which the police fatally shot 34 miners on strike within the city of Marikana.

During the listening to, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, a lawyer for the fee, stated that Zuma wanted to be arrested on prices of repeatedly defying the judiciary.

“We are dealing with a repetitive, recalcitrant lawbreaker in the form of Mr. Zuma,” Ngcukaitobi stated.

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