At the expiration of the deadline imposed by the justice system to surrender to the authorities, former South African President Jacob Zuma announced Sunday evening, July 4 that he will not constitute himself a prisoner, despite a prison sentence by the Constitutional Court of the country.
After his conviction on Tuesday to fifteen months for contempt by the highest court, after having repeatedly refused to testify in investigations for state corruption, the decision seemed final: Zuma, 79, would go behind bars .
Justice had given him five days to go to a police station and the country was waiting to see if the former head of state would obey on his own or be taken away in a spectacular arrest by the police.
It was finally by playing again with his two favorite weapons, legal cunning and popular support, that he bought himself a reprieve: the Constitutional Court on Saturday accepted a request from the Zuma camp to review its judgment and a new one. hearing has been set for July 12.
“Hands off Zuma!” “
“I don’t need to go to jail today”, Laughing, the ex-president told the press from his stronghold of Nkandla, in Kwazulu-Natal (east). Technically, this new hearing does not suspend the conviction, but Jacob Zuma felt that“They cannot accept papers and expect me to show up in prison”.
And the crowd of supporters camped Sunday in front of his residence in the Zulu countryside, armed with banners “Hands off Zuma!” “, was there to support it. Speaking in Zulu and singing songs on stage with the hundreds of activists who chanted his name, the politician, willingly provocative, launched: “When I saw the police here, I wondered how they were going to get to me, how they were going to get through all these people. “
The ex-president is accused of plundering public money during his nine years in power. Since the creation in 2018 of a commission of inquiry into state corruption, Mr. Zuma, already implicated by some forty testimonies, has stepped up efforts to avoid testifying, which sent him to the box jail.
For the South African political scientist Ralph Mathekga, these last twists are a “Nonsense”. “It’s embarrassing for the country and it’s just happening because of a threat of political instability”, he specifies. Some fear that the condemnation of the former president could lead to a serious political crisis within the historic ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC).
“A politician of yesterday”
The party canceled a meeting of its all-powerful National Executive Committee (NEC) this weekend, claiming to be “Aware of the developing situation in Kwazulu-Natal” and the need “To give a clear direction”.
Undermined by a factional war, the former head of state still has loyal supporters there, opposed to current President Cyril Ramaphosa. And one of his tactics has been to maintain divisions in order to rule better.
Entrenched in his house in Nkandla, the former leader received over the weekend a parade of local dignitaries and ANC members, to “Political conversations”, according to one of them. “This is all happening in Kwazulu-Natal. It is a province in which if we pursued all the ANC members who have something to be ashamed of, half of them would have disappeared ”, underlines political scientist Ralph Mathekga.
Elsewhere, the country was not set on fire and blood in Zuma’s name. “His power is fading despite everything, Zuma is a politician of yesterday”, going back to business days, according to Mr. Mathekga.
And the former president “Cannot be taken twice for having challenged a court decision”, believes the expert in constitutional law, Lawson Naidoo, according to which this precedent could be useful during his trial for corruption which resumes this month.
Jacob Zuma is on trial in a more than 20-year-old arms bribe case. There too, he chained the ploys to postpone the case. If the authorities do not end up arresting him, “South Africa will be considered as a failed state in which the rule of law does not apply”, warns political scientist Ebrahim Fakir.