Barely 72 hours after turning himself in for a 15-month jail term, former South African President, Jacob Zuma, has lost a court bid to overturn his arrest for contempt of court and sentencing in a case that has tested the post-Apartheid nation’s rule of law.
The embattled president had separately challenged his sentence partly on the grounds of his alleged frail health and risk of catching COVID-19 after the Constitutional Court jailed him for refusing to give evidence at an inquiry into corruption during his nine years in office from 2009.
Ruling on the matter on Friday, the presiding judge in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, said that the former president presented no evidence to back his claims up.
“Mr Zuma’s concerns about his health are not supported by any evidence. The application is dismissed,” the judge said.
Reacting to the court’s verdict, the spokesman for Zuma’s Charitable Foundation, Mzwanele Manyi, said that the Friday’s ruling against the former president was “purely academic” since the application to block his arrest had been made last week but Zuma had since turned himself in on Wednesday night.
But the High Court judgment means he must stay in jail until the Constitutional Court hears his application to rescind his sentence on Monday.
The ruling came less than an hour after the High Court in Johannesburg dismissed an application by the Secretary-General, African National Congress (ANC), Ace Magashule, to have his suspension over corruption charges in a separate case set aside.
Both politicians’ proceedings are regarded as a test of South Africa’s ability to enforce the law fairly – even against powerful politicians – 27 years after the ANC ousted South Africa’s white minority rulers to usher in democracy.
For Zuma, the jail order has been viewed as the most dramatic chapter yet in his journey from a respected anti-apartheid activist to a politician tainted by charges of sleaze and corruption, all of which he denies.
As a member of the ANC when it was a liberation movement, Zuma was jailed by South Africa’s white minority government.