South Africa’s police minister on Monday said he was awaiting court instructions on whether to arrest ex-president Jacob Zuma, who has been given a 15-month jail term for contempt.
The country’s top court last week convicted Zuma for contempt and ordered him to turn himself in by end of Sunday to start his sentence. If he failed to do so, the police would be told to arrest him within the following three days.
But Zuma on Friday lodged a last-ditch application to halt execution of the arrest order. The application will be heard in a high court on Tuesday.
“We hope that we will be getting the clarification, because when we were given the instruction there were no other legal activities taking place,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told reporters on Monday.
Zuma, 79, has also pleaded with the Constitutional Court order to reconsider and rescind its decision to jail him. That challenge will be heard on July 12.
Speaking from his rural home on Sunday night, Zuma said he would not hand himself to the police by the set deadline because of the pending court applications.
There is “no need for me to go to jail today,” he reporters 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 go to jail,” he said, referring to his legal challenge of the sentence.
The defiant politician has repeatedly attacked the judiciary and did not hold back from lashing out again.
“I’m very concerned that South Africa is fast sliding back to apartheid-type rule,” he said.
“I am facing a long detention without trial,” he said. “Sending me to jail during the height of a pandemic, at my age, is the same as sentencing me to death.”
The Constitutional Court, in a historic ruling last week, handed Zuma the 15-month term after he snubbed a judidicial probe into the theft of state assets under his tenure.
His nine years in power were stained by scandal and allegations of graft, ending disastrously in 2018 when he was forced out by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and replaced as president by Cyril Ramaphosa.
Despite his notoriety, he commands support among many grassroots ANC members, who recall his sacrifice in the struggle against apartheid, in which he spent 10 years on Robben Island.