By Prince Kurupati
Former South African President Jacob Zuma handed himself over to the police on July 7, 2021 to begin a 15-month prison sentence. Zuma was found guilty of contempt for failing to appear before a commission investigating state capture and corruption accusations against him by the South African Constitutional Court.
Celebrated for most of his political life as a fearsome fighter against Apartheid, Zuma during his second term as the country’s President found himself under immense pressure and scrutiny over his relationship and dealings with the Gupta Family. The close relationship between Zuma and the Gupta Family quickly led to the assumptions that Zuma was operating under the whims of the Family hence the Family had effectively captured Zuma and with him, the entire country.
The allegations of state capture and corruption against Zuma in favoritism of the Gupta Family ultimately led to his demise as he was ousted as the leader of South Africa’s ruling party ANC (African National Congress). Zuma’s dethronement from the party leadership post saw him vacate his seat a few months later as the country’s President. Unfortunately for Zuma, his dethronement didn’t end the state capture and corruption accusations but rather exacerbated them.
Shortly after losing his position as South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma was invited to appear before a Commission of Inquiry into state capture. At the same time, his corruption charges from way back in the early 2000s were also resurrected. Feeling like he was being targeted and made a political scapegoat by the new leaders in the ANC, Zuma time and time again refused to appear before neither the Commission of Inquiry nor the Courts citing different reasons one after the other. In late June 2021, the South African Constitutional Court had, had enough of the excuses from Zuma and charged him of contempt for not appearing before the courts. He was given a deadline to hand himself over to the police or faces the ultimate embarrassment of being hunted down by the police.
On July 7, 2021, just 40 minutes before the midnight deadline to hand himself over to the police; the former South African president took the decision to hand himself over. Zuma handed himself at the Estcourt Correctional Centre. Before Zuma handed himself over, drama had occurred at his Nkandla home as hundreds of his supporters came from all corners of the country to give him support while others were determined to block any arrest attempts by the police stating they would rather die first defending him before the police could arrest him.
Though he handed himself over, Zuma together with his supporters still believe that he is just a political scapegoat. However, leader of the main opposition party John Steenhuisen said the arrest of Zuma is an important victory for the rule of law. The arrest “sends a message to all those who have aligned themselves with the Zuma faction and who have become emboldened by his dismissive attitude, that the law cannot be mocked and challenged with impunity. If the leader can go to prison, then so can anyone. Last night was a warning flare for the architects of state capture and the handmaidens of Zuma, Steenhuisen said.
Zuma becomes the first ever South African president post independence to be arrested.