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Jacob Zuma, former president of South Africa, sentenced 15 months prison for contempt of court

Jacob Zuma, former president of South Africa

Jacob Zuma, a former South African president, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court after failing to appear before a corruption investigation earlier this year.

Zuma, 79, who has been president for nearly nine years until 2018, was not present to hear the South African constitutional court's ruling.

The judge ordered the former president to surrender within five days. If he fails to do so, police will be notified to arrest him and ensure he is "taken to a correctional facility," said Judge Sisi Khampepe.

Zuma failed to appear in a corruption investigation led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo in February. The investigation is investigating allegations of high-level connections during Zuma's tenure. The veteran politician denies wrongdoing and says Zondo is doing his vendetta.
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On Tuesday, Khampepe said: "The constitutional court has no choice but to conclude that Mr Zuma is guilty of contempt of court."

He added: “This kind of retaliation and contempt is illegal and will be punished. I am left with no choice but to hand over Mr Zuma to prison, hoping that doing so sends a clear message… the rule of law and the administration of justice will work.

"The decision of the majority carries an unexpected sentence of 15 months' imprisonment."

Zuma "repeatedly insisted that he would rather be arrested than work with the commission or comply with the order," Khampepe said.

The corruption investigation was launched by Zuma himself, under pressure from increasing scandals, just before he was ousted in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

But he testified only once, in July 2019, before setting dates for later departures. He ignored a number of repeated invitations, cited medical treatment, and prepared for a new corruption case.

He re-introduced himself briefly in November but left before the investigation.

In February, Zondo said he would seek an injunction from the Constitutional Court that Zuma was contemptuous of the court and would ask for his sentence.

“This is very serious because if it is allowed to work, there will be lawlessness and civil strife. There may be other people who will decide to follow his example if they are served with summonses on other court proceedings, ”said Zondo.

"If the message is that people can ignore or ignore summonses and court orders and be punished, there is very little left in our democracy."

Most of the alleged allegations of corruption by the commission include three siblings from a wealthy Indian business family, the Guptas, who have secured government-sponsored government contracts and are suspected of even electing cabinet ministers.
‘State capture’: a corruption investigation that has shaken South Africa
Learn more

Zuma faces 16 counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud in connection with the 1999 military aircraft purchase, patrol boats and military equipment at five European arms companies worth $ 30bn. At the time of the purchase, Zuma was deputy president Thabo Mbeki.

During a court hearing last month, he pleaded not guilty and told the court that the prosecutor was politically motivated, accusing state attorneys of working "not to find out the truth but to confirm the account of a corrupt political leader".

Zuma's successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, a wealthy labor activist, has taken steps to root out corruption. Ramaphosa took over as President of South Africa in the aftermath of the civil war within the ANC and in the midst of public outcry over alleged mismanagement and corruption of the system.
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Anger has been fueled by a series of scandals involving huge sums of money obtained fraudulently from government contracts for emergency contraceptives against Covid-19 and grants for the most needy.

In the past few days, new Covid restrictions have been introduced in an attempt to stem a sharp rise in cases driven by the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, weak countermeasures and public fatigue with existing restrictions.

All gatherings, indoors and outdoors, have been banned for 14 days, along with the sale of alcohol, dining in restaurants and travel to or from the worst-hit areas of the country. An extended curfew has been imposed, and schools shut early for holidays.

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