Former South African President Jacob Zuma lashed out at judges who this week sentenced him to 15 months in jail for fleeing a corruption investigation, comparing them to the white minority apartheid rulers he once fought with.
Zuma spoke at his home in Nklandla, in a rural area of Kwazulu Natal province, where hundreds of his supporters, some of them armed, gathered to avoid his arrest.
“The fact that I was attacked with a punitive jail sentence without trial should shock all who believe in freedom and the rule of law,” Zuma said.
“South Africa is almost reverting to the apartheid regime.”
The constitutional court convicted Zuma in contempt of court on Tuesday for failing to appear in February at an investigation hearing led by Supreme Court Vice President Raymond Zondo.
On Saturday he agreed to hear his challenge to the prison sentence, suspending it until after a hearing on July 12.
The sentence was seen as a sign of how far Zuma, once revered as a veteran of the fight against the white minority government, has fallen since he embarked on a presidency beset by multiple corruption and corruption scandals between 2009 and 2018. .
Earlier on Sunday, shots rang out across Nklandla, as some of his supporters fired their weapons into the air, while others danced with oxhide spears and shields, traditional weapons of the Zulu nation of Zuma.
“I fought and went to jail, so there must be justice and the rule of law. No honest person can accuse me of being against the rule of law, “Zuma said.
The former president’s legal troubles have divided the ruling African National Congress between his side and that of his successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma gave in to pressure to resign and yield to Ramaphosa in 2018. Since then, he has faced investigations into allegations of corruption dating back to his time as president and before.
The Zondo commission is examining allegations that he allowed three Indian-born businessmen, Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, to loot state resources and traffic in influence over government policy. He and the Gupta brothers, who fled to Dubai after Zuma was overthrown, deny any wrongdoing.
Zuma also faces a separate court case related to a $ 2 billion arms deal in 1999 when he was vice president. Denies the charges.
On Sunday, the former president reiterated his opinion that he is the victim of a political witch hunt and that Zondo is biased.
“Judge Zondo began to … treat me unfairly and with prejudice,” Zuma said.
The 79-year-old man has asked the court to annul the sentence claiming that it is excessive and could expose him to Covid-19, which “would put him at greater risk of death.”
He said at a press conference on Sunday that he had not been vaccinated against Covid-19.