Supporters of former South African President Jacob Zuma walk to his home in Nkandla
Supporters of former South African president Jacob Zuma, who was sentenced to a 15-month imprisonment by the Constitutional Court, walk to his home in Nkandla, South Africa, July 3, 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

NKANDLA, South Africa (Reuters) – A South African court on Saturday agreed to hear ex-president Jacob Zuma’s challenge to a 15-month jail term (for failing to attend the Zondo corruption hearing), as hundreds of his supporters gathered outside his home in a show of force. The Jacob Zuma Foundation says he will ‘address the nation’ on Sunday at 18h00 from the Auditorium in Nkandla.

Supporters of former South African President Jacob Zuma walk to his home in Nkandla
Supporters of former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was sentenced to a 15-month imprisonment by the Constitutional Court, sing and dance in front of his home in Nkandla, South Africa, July 3, 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

The ex-leader has applied to the court for the sentence to be annulled on the grounds that it is excessive and could expose him to COVID-19.

“When somebody is saying please hear me out … and then we have court that says ‘OK, we are willing to listen to you’, that’s the kind of justice system people died for in this country,” the Jacob Zuma Foundation said in a statement.

At his hometown of Nkandla, Zuma, who did not speak to his supporters, wore a black and gold tropical shirt as he walked through the crowd, but no mask. He was guarded by men dressed as traditional warriors from his Zulu nation, wearing leopard skins and holding spears with oval ox-hide shields.


Zuma’s son – “They would have to kill me (first)…”

His son, Edward Zuma, told Reuters at the gathering: “They can give Zuma 15 months … or 100 months. He’s not going to serve even one day or one minute of that. They would have to kill me before they put their hands on him.”

The constitutional court had on Tuesday given Zuma 15 months in jail for absconding in February from the inquiry led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Zuma had until the end of Sunday to hand himself in, but on Saturday the court agreed to hear his application, suspending the order.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (​SABC) reported that the court will hear his application on July 12.

Supporters of former South African President Jacob Zuma walk to his home in Nkandla
Supporters of former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was sentenced to a 15-month imprisonment by the Constitutional Court, walk to his home in Nkandla, South Africa, July 3, 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
Supporters of former South African President Jacob Zuma walk to his home in Nkandla
REUTERS/Rogan Ward

The jail sentence was seen as sign of just how far Zuma, once revered as a veteran of the struggle against white minority rule, has fallen since embarking on a presidency beset by multiple sleaze and corruption scandals between 2009 and 2018.

ANC divided over Zuma crisis

His travails have divided the ruling African National Congress, which cancelled an executive committee meeting over the weekend in order to focus on the ensuing crisis.

Supporters of former South African President Jacob Zuma walk to his home in Nkandla
Supporters of former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was sentenced to a 15-month imprisonment by the Constitutional Court, walk to his home in Nkandla, South Africa, July 3, 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

In an application to annul the decision submitted on Friday, Zuma said going to jail “would put him at the highest risk of death” from the pandemic because he was nearly 80 and has a medical condition.

Zuma also called the sentence a “political statement of exemplary punishment”. He has maintained he is the victim of a political witch hunt and that Zondo is biased against him.

Zuma gave in to #ZumaMustFall pressure to quit and yield to his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, in 2018, and since then has faced several attempts to bring him to book for alleged corruption during and before his time as president.

The Zondo Commission is examining allegations that he allowed three Indian-born businessmen, the brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, to plunder state resources and influence policy. He and the brothers, who fled to Dubai after Zuma’s ouster, deny wrongdoing.

Zuma also faces a separate court case relating to a $2 billion arms deal in 1999 when he was deputy president.

Late on Saturday evening, Zuma tweeted for the first time in over two months: “ISilo Siyawafinyeza Amazipho.” (Even the Mighty sometimes hold back their weapons/power.)

Meanwhile it is reported that the Zulu Royal Family spokesperson, Prince Thulani Zulu, has distanced the royal house and King Misuzulu from those purporting to be Zulu regiments supporting Zuma at Nkandla. 

DON’T MISS CARTE BLANCHE This Sunday as the show unpacks how Jacob Zuma has reacted to his jail sentence, and what will happen next. Watch in South Africa on DStv Now or stream it overseas in most countries on Showmax International from Tues 06 July if you’re abroad.

(Writing by Tim Cocks and Siyabonga Sishi, Editing by David Holmes)