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Zuma will be treated fairly, could be out in 4 months

FORMER South African president Jacob Zuma, who has started his 15-month prison term at the Escourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal, will be treated fairly, with dignity and could be free in four months, government has revealed.

SA Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, who saw Zuma in his hospital cell where he kept in accordance with COVID-19 regulations, said: “We want to assure all South Africans that former president Zuma will be afforded dignity throughout his term of incarceration.”

Lamola said Zuma, who will stay in isolation for two weeks, was in good spirits. “I have seen him. He is in very good spirits. He has taken his breakfast and medication. “I was just checking whether he is fine. He indicated that he is fine and that we can tell the country that he is in a dignified environment,” the Minister said.

Zuma is being held in the Medium-B facility at the prison, where, as one of the 212 inmates, will have access to television. He cannot use his cellphone but will have access to public telephones to make calls.

After putting up a massive legal and political fight to avoid jail, Jacob Zuma has made history and became the first head of state in South Africa to be imprisoned.

While a handful of his supporters and family members sang and toyi-toyi outside, Jacob Zuma was taken into custody by officers attached to the Presidential Protection Unit (PPU) who had been guarding him.

While the drama took place outside Zuma’s house, officers of the PPU took Zuma and drove off, in a convoy of six cars to prison. The PPU officers responded to an instruction from National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole.

Sources told The African Mirror said Zuma did not resist and was not handcuffed. At 01:20 am, Zuma arrived at the Escourt Prison in northern KwaZulu-Natal under a heavy police guard. The prison, which was built in 2019 at the cost of R387-million, was also surrounded by heavily armed police officers.

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In a statement, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) confirmed that Zuma was admitted to the prison. “Mr Zuma will be taken through all the admission processes as per DCS regulations. Other relevant prescripts pertaining to admitting and orientation newly incarcerated persons will also be followed and executed. Details about the appropriate classification, prerogatives and incarceration conditions can only be determined at the completion of the assessment process to be undertaken by relevant authorities with the employ of the DCS,” the department said.

The prison, which has the capacity to accommodate 512 inmates, consists of two units, with a capacity to accommodate 512 inmates, has a hospital section, a training centre, a maintenance workshop, logistics, and other support structures.

Dudu Zuma-Sambudla (@DZumaSambudla) Tweeted:
Just spoke @PresJGZuma en route and he is still in high spirits. He said that he hopes they still have his same overalls from Robben Island and we laughed hard that at least he won’t struggle with Afrikaans this time round. We salute dad! Amandla ✊🏽✊🏽✊🏽!!!

Zuma was taken into custody after his 11th-hour attempt – a letter to the Constitutional Court asking for the sentence to be suspended – failed. He also lodged a separate application in the Constitutional Court, asking for the rescission of the 15-month sentence.

In a tweet, the Police Ministry confirmed that Zuma had been placed in custody in compliance with the Constitutional Court judgment.

In their letter to the Constitutional Court sent yesterday evening, Zuma’s lawyers had asked for the detention warrant, in terms of which he would be committed to the Westville Prison, to be suspended until the June 12 hearing, where his other application for the rescission of the sentence, will be heard. “We write to request that you issue a directive in terms of which the execution of the committal orders of the Constitutions (Sic) is suspended pending the outcome of the judgment on Friday 9 July 2021, alternatively pending the outcome of the judgment to be heard by the Constitutional Court on Monday, 12 July 2021,” the lawyers wrote.

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In their application, Zuma’s lawyers have argued that his life would be endangered if he was arrested on Wednesday evening. Zuma has previously disclosed that he suffered from an ailment that required constant treatment.

Zuma’s latest attempts came as top police officials said they would hold back while Zuma’s two-pronged legal challenge unfolds.

The Constitutional Court sentenced Zuma a week ago to a 15-month jail term for contempt of court after he defied an order to give evidence at an inquiry into corruption during his nine years in power.

The court gave Zuma five days to hand himself in, failing which police were instructed to arrest him by the end of Wednesday.

But Zuma did not hand himself in, instead of asking the constitutional court to cancel its sentence and approaching the high court to issue an order – known as an interdict – to prevent his arrest.

The judge presiding over the case said he would rule on Friday at 11:30 a.m. (0930 GMT) on whether to grant the interdict.

Speaking to journalists on Sunday, he lashed out at the judges that sentenced him and compared them to the white minority rulers he fought during the liberation struggle. Hundreds of his supporters, some of them armed, were gathered nearby at his rural homestead to prevent his arrest.

Zuma’s latest act of defiance was seen as a test of South Africa’s rule of law. It has the potential to erupt into violence as the former president still commands loyal followings in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal and within the governing African National Congress (ANC).

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On Tuesday, Zuma’s lawyer Dali Mpofu urged the Pietermaritzburg High Court to grant the interdict given the “aggravated situation” in the country since Zuma was sentenced and factors including his age.

“What we have here, My Lord, is a warrant of arrest for the former head of state who will be 80 years next birthday, who is not a flight risk on anybody’s version,” he said.

Outside the courthouse 20 to 30 Zuma supporters protested, waving banners including “The people’s president deserves a fair trial” and wearing t-shirts reading “Hands off Zuma”.

A lawyer for the corruption inquiry, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, said Zuma had a duty to hand himself in by Sunday, irrespective of his application for the constitutional court to cancel its sentence, which will be heard on July 12.

“Mr Zuma on his own has literally taken the law into his own hands,” Ngcukaitobi said. “We are dealing with a recalcitrant, deliberately defiant litigant.”

‘EVERY LEGAL AVENUE’

The inquiry that Zuma refused to attend is examining allegations he allowed three Indian-born businessmen, Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, to plunder state resources and traffic influence over government policy.

Zuma and the Gupta brothers, who fled the country after Zuma was ousted by allies of his successor Cyril Ramaphosa, deny any wrongdoing.

In a letter to the acting chief justice, seen by Reuters, the state attorney acting for the police minister and police commissioner said they would hold back from arresting Zuma pending the outcome of his litigation or directions to act otherwise.

Senior ANC official Jessie Duarte said the party was aware Zuma was exploring “every legal avenue” to reduce or escape his prison sentence.

“We believe the judiciary must be left to make its own decisions, (but) … we would hope that comrade Zuma’s court application will be successful,” she said.

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By The African Mirror

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