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Jacob Zuma in ‘high spirits’ despite jail sentence: family, aide

South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma was in “high spirits” on Wednesday, a day after the country’s top court handed him a 15-month jail sentence, family and aides said.

Former South African president Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture (Sharon Seretlo - Gallo Images)
Former South African president Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture (Sharon Seretlo – Gallo Images)

In an unprecedented ruling, the Constitutional Court on Tuesday convicted Zuma for “egregious” and “aggravated” contempt of court after he refused to comply with an order to appear before graft investigators.

If Zuma fails to turn himself in by Sunday, police will be ordered to arrest him and take him to prison.

But his close associates said Zuma’s morale was good and his famously jovial energy was undimmed.

“He is in high spirits, bouncing like a tennis ball,” his spokesman Mzwanele Manyi told AFP. “If it was me, I would have lost appetite, he has not lost appetite.”

“I think the reason he is like that is that his soul is intact, his conscience is intact,” he added.

One of his daughters, Dudu Zuma-Sambudla, tweeted pictures of Zuma laughing in a navy-blue checkered suit, and wrote “Reunited With @PresJGZuma And He Is Still In High Spirits”.

His lawyers are still formulating a response to the ruling.

Despite numerous attempts by the commission to get Zuma to comply and him shunning the contempt case hearing, Manyi said Zuma should have had a trial.

“If you are going to incarcerate somebody, surely that person should go through a trial,” he said, accusing the judges of being “emotional” in their ruling.

Zuma, 79, is accused of enabling the plunder of state coffers during his nine years in office, which ended in February 2018 when he was forced out by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

Before he left office, he responded to mounting pressure by setting an investigative commission, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

He was ordered on Tuesday to be jailed after years of failure to testify to the panel.

Zondo on Wednesday welcomed the verdict, telling a news conference that this is “a very important judgement for our country”.

“It vindicates the rule of law in our country, it vindicates the supremacy of our constitution, it reaffirms the principle that we are all equal before the law,” said Zondo.

But, he added, “one wishes that it had never become necessary to reach this point.”

A foundation for Archibishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel-winning anti-apartheid campaigner, said, “We have arrived at a pivotal moment in our history, one of which we can all be proud.”

“In 1994, after hundreds of years of cruel injustice through colonialism and apartheid, South Africans voted for a constitutional democracy in which all are equal before the law,” it said in a statement.

Zuma is separately facing 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to a 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military gear from five European arms firms for 30 billion rand, then the equivalent of nearly $5 billion. AFP