South African police plan to arrest former President Jacob Zuma at midnight on Wednesday, absent any further instructions from the Constitutional Court, Police Department spokeswoman Lirandzu Themba said.
The country’s highest court last week sentenced Zuma to 15 months in prison for contempt of court and ordered that he surrender to authorities by July 4, or face arrest within three days of that deadline. . Police Minister Bheki Cele asked the court for clarification on the arrest order after Zuma asked a lower court to suspend him.
“The police will have to make the arrest before midnight,” Themba said. “Failure to do so would mean the minister and the police commissioner would be in contempt of court. The minister said he was not prepared to be charged with contempt of court.
The judgment on the request for a stay of arrest will be handed down on July 9.
Zuma, 79, remains a powerful political actor in South Africa, and his case was a key test for the country’s democracy and its determination to uphold the rule of law. He ruled South Africa for nearly nine scandalous years until the ruling African National Congress forced him to step down in 2018 to stem a loss of electoral support. The government estimates that more than 500 billion rand ($ 35 billion) has been stolen from state coffers. He denies any wrongdoing.
Crowds of Zuma supporters gathered at Zuma’s rural farm in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal ahead of the July 4 deadline for him to surrender to authorities, though numbers have since declined.
© 2021 Bloomberg