No VIP treatment: Former President Jacob Zuma will be treated like any other prisoner

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Former South African president Jacob Zuma; Courtesy Photo

South Africa’s justice and prison officials have been at pains to stress that Zuma will not get VIP treatment in jail.

Authorities at Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal province say he will wear orange overalls, which is the official uniform for sentenced inmates in South Africa.

Zuma handed himself in to police on Wednesday to begin his jail term at a prison following a court sentence last week for failing to attend an inquiry into corruption during his presidency.

Businessmen have been accused of conspiring with politicians during his nine years in power to influence the decision-making process. Zuma has repeatedly said he is the victim of a political conspiracy.

The former president had initially refused to hand himself in, but in a short statement on Wednesday, the Jacob Zuma Foundation said he had “decided to comply”.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said this was a time for restraint, not celebration, and promised Zuma would be treated like any other prisoner. The jailing of a former president is unprecedented in South Africa, which has frustrated his legal appeals.

Mr Ramola also said Zuma would spend the first two weeks of his sentence in isolation in line with Covid-19 regulations.

Jacob Zuma served as president from 2009 but resigned in 2018 under pressure from within his party African National Congress (ANC) and outside.

He was slapped with several charges of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering. Some of the charges relate to the 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military gear from five European arms firms, for nearly $5 billion.

Zuma, who was deputy president at the time, is also accused of accepting bribes totaling 4 million rand from one of the firms, the French defense giant Thales. The deal with Thales was in exchange for protecting the company from an investigation into the exchange.

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