The South African Constitutional Court has sentenced former president Jacob Zuma to 15 months in jail for contempt of court after a series of corruption scandals.
Zuma faces another two years in prison relating to charges that he permitted the looting of public funds during his tenure.
However, he has repeatedly ignored requests to appear in court.
The court heard the contempt case in March and this morning Acting Deputy Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe found President Zuma guilty of contempt of court after defying an order to testify before a judicial panel investigating corruption during his nine-year rule.
“The Constitutional Court can do nothing but conclude that Mr Zuma is guilty of the crime of contempt of court,” ruled Justice Khampepe, saying Zuma was testing the strength of the judiciary system in the country.
Justice Khampepe justified her direct sentence, arguing that Mr Zuma was very likely to defy a suspended sentence – a further act of defiance that would only plunge the judiciary further into crisis.
Zuma has been ordered by the Judge to hand himself over at the Nkandla police station or Johannesburg. within 5 days in order to start serving his prison sentence. Should he fail to do so, the Police minister and national commissioner have been empowered to drag him to the nearest correctional services centre.
The judgement has been hailed as victory for South Africa’s ailing democracy.
This Zuma contempt judgment handed down by Justice Khampepe is beautiful: clinical, unambiguous, fact-based, legally cogent and, crucially, morally authoritative.
The rule of law only has meaning if it is properly animated. This kind of legal adjudication does exactly that.
— Eusebius McKaiser (@Eusebius) June 29, 2021
Today's judgement is a victory for the Rule of Law in South Africa.
It is clear for all to see that #JacobZuma’s attempts to ignore, undermine and destroy the rule of law will not be tolerated in our democratic society.
Nobody is above the law!
— Herman Mashaba (@HermanMashaba) June 29, 2021
However, Zuma’s spokesperson has described the judgment as “a very sad day in South Africa”, saying President Zuma is shocked wherever he is.