The arrest and prosecution of Former South African President, Jacob Zuma for contempt of Court, has sparked violence and looting in major cities in South Africa.
Supporters of the populist leader gathered at his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, armed with guns, spears and shields, to try to stop his arrest. The 79-year-old Zuma however gave in to the court verdict and proceeded quietly to begin his sentence.
Mr. Zuma handed himself over on Wednesday 7th 2021, to begin a 15-month sentence for refusing to respond to a Court order accusing him of corruption.
His arrest and ongoing sentence is the beginning of a long legal drama, testing the country’s ability to enforce the rule of law and disregard public opinion. Mr. Zuma has been South African President for over nine years, and is famous for fighting Apartheid in the country, making him a popular leader.
Police spokesperson Lirandzu Themba confirmed in a statement that Zuma, had presented himself for arrest, in compliance with a Court Ruling. He was sentenced for 15 months in prison for defying an order in February to give evidence at an inquiry examining corruption during the nine years that he was president. The investigations were led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
His defense, the former president said that he is a victim of a political witch-hunt and that Zondo had acted from a point of bias, in the investigations.
Despite the outcry by citizens over Zuma’s arrest, the government has maintained that the rule of law must be adhered to, regardless of the prominent status of the individual under investigation.
Popular opinion has it that the South African Constitutional Court handled the case with utmost professionalism, and this should be emulated by the whole world. The Court was said to have applied constitutional law to the facts before them, putting aside political popularity and favoritism.
The most important lesson from Zuma’s arrest is that every person is equal before the law and leaders from across the world must proceed with integrity in their public service.