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South Africa: Zuma’s ‘historic’ sentence took many by surprise

By Anna Maree
Posted on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 18:21

Former South African President Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 16, 2019. Pool via REUTERS

South Africa's Constitutional Court has given former president Jacob Zuma only two options after sentencing him to 15 months in prison for contempt: hand himself over to the police or face arrest.

Tuesday’s (29 June) judgement took many by surprise, not only because it was so stern, but primarily because Zuma had been battling the judicial system for 16 years after he was first formally implicated in corruption.

The historic sentence for the 79-year-old isn’t for graft, but for ignoring a court order that compelled him to testify before an inquiry on the large-scale corruption – or state capture – that took place during his presidency from 2009 to 2018.

The sentence “cannot properly capture the damage that Mr Zuma has done to the dignity and integrity of the judicial system of a democratic and constitutional nation,” said Sisi Khamphephe, the acting chief justice, as he read out the court’s majority judgement, that took just under an hour to deliver.