Jacob Zuma, former South African president, turned himself in to police on Wednesday to begin 15 months in jail for contempt of court, the culmination of a long legal drama seen as a test of the country’s ability to enforce the rule of law.
Police spokesperson Lirandzu Themba confirmed in a statement that Zuma, who was president from 2009 – 2018, was in police custody, in compliance with last week’s Constitutional Court ruling.
The court sentenced Zuma to 15 months in prison for defying an order in February to give evidence at an inquiry examining corruption during the nine years that he was president. The inquiry is led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. The former president maintains that he is the victim of a political witchhunt and that Zondo is biased against him.
Police had signalled they would arrest Zuma by the end of Wednesday if he failed to appear at a police station. Hundreds of his supporters, some of them armed with guns, spears and shields, had gathered nearby at his rural homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, to try to prevent his arrest.
But in the end, the 79-year-old Zuma decided to go quietly.A convoy of cars believed to be carrying Zuma drove out of his homestead at high speed about 40 minutes before the cut-off time for him to give himself up.
“Please be advised that (ex) President Zuma has decided to comply with the incarceration order,” his foundation tweeted, marking the first time Zuma’s camp had shown any willingness to cooperate with the court.
“He is on his way to hand himself into a Correctional Services Facility in KZN,” it added, just minutes before the deadline expired.