Former South African president, Jacob Zuma, who governed the country from 2009 to 2018, has been sentenced to 15 months in jail.
Zuma has been sentenced to 15 months in prison in a direct and unsuspended sentence by the country’s top court on Tuesday (29 June), after being found guilty for defying a court order to appear before an inquiry probing wide-ranging allegations of corruption during his tenure from 2009 to 2018.
Deputy Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe says in a ruling in Johannesburg that Zuma has been convicted for contempt of court; after disobeying an order to testify before a judicial panel investigating corruption allegations during his nine-year reign.
“The majority judgement orders an unsuspended sentence of imprisonment for a period,” judge Sisi Khampepe said.
This is the first time in South Africa’s history that a former president has been sentenced to prison.
Zuma, who wasn’t present for the ruling, was ordered to hand himself over within five days to a police station in his hometown of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province or in Johannesburg.
Back in January, the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma had to respond to questions from a judicial commission headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. But the 79-year-old former intelligence operative accused the court and Zondo of bias, walked out of one scheduled panel hearing in November, and boycotted another in February.
The panel responded by filing contempt charges against him.
“The Constitutional Court can do nothing but conclude that Mr. Zuma is guilty of the crime of contempt of court,” acting Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe said in a ruling in Johannesburg on Tuesday. “Mr. Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma is sentenced to undergo 15 months imprisonment.”
According to report, the government estimates more than 500 billion rand ($35 billion) was stolen from the state during Zuma’s rule, and at least 40 witnesses who’ve appeared before in court linked the ex-president to the looting spree.
However, Zuma, who was forced to quit in 2018, has denied wrongdoing and says the allegations against him are part of a smear campaign.