Jacob Zuma faces 15 months in jail for contempt of court. What else is hanging over him?

By Marie Toulemonde
Posted on Monday, 28 June 2021 06:58, updated on Thursday, 1 July 2021 10:47

Former South African President Jacob Zuma, who is facing fraud and corruption charges, sings after his appearance in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 26 May 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

Accused of corruption and under investigation for conflicts of interest, South Africa's former President Jacob Zuma is the target of a string of legal proceedings. We give you a visual guide to 12 major scandals involving the former South African head of state: from the arms deal, to Gaddafi's cash, via the Gupta brothers and Bosasa.

Updated on 29 June: The constitutional court is sending Zuma to jail for 15 months for contempt of court.

“The Constitutional Court can do nothing but conclude that Mr Zuma is guilty of the crime of contempt of court,” says Justice  Sisi Khampepe.

“I am left with no option but to commit Mr Zuma to imprisonment, with the hope that doing so sends an unequivocal message… the rule of law and the administration of justice prevails.”

Zuma has been caught in the web of scandals that ultimately cost him the presidency in early 2018.

Over the past 20 years, the politician, whose middle name is Gedleyihlekisa – which means ‘one who laughs while grinding his enemies’ in Zulu – has mastered the art of evading the hand of justice in South Africa.

Zuma has adopted the ‘Stalingrad legal defence’ strategy: using whatever means possible to delay proceedings and wearing down the plaintiff by appealing every ruling that is unfavourable to the defendant.

He most recently wielded this method in the arms deal corruption trial, the charges of which date back to 1999. In the case that has been marked by a seemingly endless series of twists and turns – from procedural errors to dropped charges and postponements – Zuma, not missing a beat, pleaded not guilty on 26 May 2021. His legal team sought the recusal of the state prosecutor, advocate Billy Downer, whom they claimed was biased. The judges will review their arguments on 19 July.

Since he took office as president, Cyril Ramaphosa has been waging a war against his predecessor, in the hopes of banishing him from the political landscape for good. The president has stated that he plans to make the fight against graft a priority for his administration, but it would also be a boon to eliminate the disruptive influence of his rival within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, that has been wracked by division.

Zuma’s government set up the Zondo Commission in 2018 – officially known as the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture. Since then, the commission has investigated allegations of corruption against the former president and the Gupta family. The latter stands accused of infiltrating every level of government during Zuma’s presidency from 2009 – 2018.

Read our infographics for more on Zuma’s saga of scandals:


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