The Constitutional Court of South Africa on Tuesday slammed a 15-month jail term on former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court following his refusal to appear before corruption investigators.
The 79-year-old Zuma is accused of enabling the plunder of state resources during his nearly nine-year stay in office. He was forced to step down as president in 2018 over corruption allegations.
Zuma had defied an order by the nation’s to court in January to appear at an inquiry into allegations of graft while he was president. He has now been found guilty of contempt of court, bagging the 15-month prison term.
In her ruling, Judge Sisi Khampepe said, “The Constitutional Court can do nothing but conclude that Mr Zuma is guilty of the crime of contempt of court.
“This kind of recalcitrance and defiance is unlawful and will be punished.
“I am left with no option but to commit Mr Zuma to imprisonment, with the hope that doing so sends an unequivocal message… the rule of law and the administration of justice prevails.
“The majority judgement orders an unsuspended sentence of imprisonment for a period (of 15 months),” she declared, ordering Zuma to hand himself over within five days.
The commission of inquiry set up to investigate the former president is headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
The panel was set up by Zuma himself, under pressure over mounting scandals, shortly before he was ousted in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
But he only testified once, in July 2019, before staging a walkout days later and accusing the commission’s Zondo of bias.
Zuma then ignored several invitations to reappear, citing medical reasons and preparations for another corruption trial.
He presented himself again briefly in November but left before questioning, and Zondo asked to ask the Constitutional Court to intervene.
Most of the corruption charges probed by the commission involve three brothers from a wealthy Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative government contracts and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.