Embattled former South African president Jacob Zuma has said sending him to jail at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and at his age, is the same as sentencing him to death.
This follows a Constitutional Court ruling on Tuesday that handed the former president a 15 month jail sentence after it found him guilty of contempt for defying its order to appear before an inquiry into corruption. Court had also set Sunday deadline for his arrest if he refuses to hand himself to the nearest police station.
In an application to annul the decision submitted on Friday, Zuma said going to jail “would put him at the highest risk of death” from the pandemic because he was nearly 80 and has a medical condition.
“No need for me to go to jail today, because we are engaging with court” Mr Zuma told media at his home in Nkandla in Kwa-Zulu Natal province on Sunday. “Sending me to jail during the height of a pandemic at my age is the same as sentencing me to death”
Mr Zuma’s time in power, which ended in 2018, was dogged by graft allegations. Businessmen were accused of conspiring with politicians to influence the decision-making process.
Protesting the ruling as unfair, Zuma said Constitutional democracy provides a fair hearing and any conduct, be it of courts, which contradicts provisions of the constitution is null and void.
He said he had been “lambasted with a punitive jail sentence without trial” and that “South Africa is fast sliding back to apartheid rule”.
Zuma also called the sentence a “political statement of exemplary punishment.” He has maintained he is the victim of political witch hunt and that Zondo is biased against him.
However, the constitutional court then later agreed to hear his challenge to the 15-month jail term he was given.
After historically sentencing him to a 15-month term for contempt of court, South Africa’s constitutional court later agreed to hear Zuma’s challenge to rescind the order.
The supporters, in their hundreds had remained camped outside Zuma’s home until Sunday morning when the former leader addressed them. Some supporters vowed to render the country ungovernable if Zuma ended up jailed. Some on Sunday were singing, “Don’t rush the war, war kills!”