South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma on Sunday put up a defiant face and refused to surrender in order to start a 12-month jail term for contempt. He refused to surrender by court-set deadline.
“No need for me to go to jail today,” he told journalists at his Nkandla homestead in Kwa-Zulu Natal province, where hundreds of his supporters are camped outside in solidarity.
“They cannot accept papers and expect me to show up in prison,” he added, referring to his legal bid to challenge the sentence.
Jacob Zuma (79) told his supporters earlier that his “constitutional rights were abused” by judges of the country’s constitutional court.
He was sentenced to the jail term for contempt of court after he repeatedly refused to give evidence to corruption investigators.
His supporters have vowed to render South Africa ungovernable if he is jailed.
After sentencing Zuma, the South African court nonetheless agreed to hear his challenge to rescind the order.
The deadline to surrender himself to the authorities was set to run out on Sunday.
In a show of force, loyalists clad in their African National Congress (ANC) regalia have been outside their embattled leader’s Nkandla homestead in Kwa-Zulu Natal province for weeks.
“When I saw the police here I wondered how will they get to me, how will they get through all these people,” Zuma said earlier as he continued to mock South African authorities.
“If (Police Minister) Bheki Cele comes here to arrest uBaba (Zuma) he must start with us,” supporter Lindokuhle Maphalala told AFP.
Vowing to protect Zuma, the protesters called for President Cyril Ramaphosa to step down.
“We are here to say Ramaphosa must step down. Must step down”, a visibly angry loyalist said. “As from Monday we will make the country ungovernable.”
Police, under orders to arrest Zuma if necessary, were stationed across the province on Sunday to control the crowds descending on Nkandla.
If Zuma fails to turn himself in, police will be given a further three days to arrest him.
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