Former South African president Jacob Zuma says that there is no longer a need for him to be sent to jail.
The reason is that the Constitutional Court, which on Tuesday last week sentenced him to a 15-month jail term for contempt, has agreed to hear his pleas.
Speaking at a press conference in his Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal Sunday evening, Zuma faced local and international reporters, some of whom had earlier been heckled and threatened by hundreds of his supporters. He was to be arrested by midnight Sunday.
Zuma insisted that he was innocent and that he was being picked on, saying “there cannot be one law for Jacob Zuma” that did not also apply to everyone else.
He said he had refused to become involved in Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s application to the Constitutional Court to find him guilty of contempt and send him to jail for two years because it was a matter of “conscience”.
Zuma again accused Zondo of bias against him, as he had done when demanding Zondo’s recusal, a demand that was rejected.
The press conference followed days of high drama, with hundreds of Zuma supporters congregating outside his residence, violating Covid-19 lockdown regulations as the Delta variant ravages the country. They formed a ‘human shield’ in a bid to prevent his arrest.
Read: Zuma must go to jail, says South Africa DCJ Zondo
Earlier, Zuma addressed his followers and moved among his thronging supporters, with no social distancing and many wearing no face masks.
Despite the national police spokesman saying that all violators would be arrested and that order would be restored outside Zuma’s home, there was no sign of any effort by authorities to bring a halt to Zuma’s supporters congregating.
His close aides asked for supporters to “remain calm” and Zuma called for support actions to be peaceful following gunshots heard several times outside his rural residence.
A caravan of about 30 vehicles, which police stopped en route to his home, was subsequently allowed to proceed there without official explanation.
Security sources said it had been decided that, rather than engage in confrontation that would almost certainly lead to violence, it was better to de-escalate matters, especially as Zuma’s showdown with the Concourt had been pushed out by at least a week.
Zuma’s pleas for an overturning of his prison term by the Concourt will be heard on July 12.
Legal analysts are largely of the belief that the Concourt is bound to impose some term of imprisonment on Zuma, even if less than the initial sentence, given that in April the court had found unanimously that he was in wilful contempt, and there was no other recourse in law for such a finding.