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South Africa police won’t arrest Zuma until legal challenge is over

South African police say they will not make any moves to arrest ex-president Jacob Zuma, who has been handed a 15-month jail term for contempt, until he has fully exhausted his legal battle against the sentence, a document showed Tuesday.

South Africa's former President Jacob Zuma
South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma

Zuma has mounted a two-pronged last-ditch attempt to avoid jail after the Constitutional Court, the country’s top judicial authority, slapped him with the sentence last week.

He was told to turn himself in by midnight last Sunday, failing which police would be instructed to arrest him within the following three days.

On Friday, Zuma, 79, rushed to court seeking to halt the execution of the arrest order. His application is due to be heard on Tuesday in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

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He has separately pleaded with the Constitutional Court to reconsider and rescind its jail order. That challenge will be heard on July 12

In a letter seen on Tuesday, lawyers for the police have written to Constitutional Court saying they will pause on the order to arrest Zuma given the “unique situation presented by the developments and the legal matrix involved.”

“Out of respect (for) the unfolding litigation processes, (the police will) hold further actions they are expected to take in terms of the honourable court’s orders in abeyance, pending the finalisation of the litigation,” the letter says.

Zuma was order to be jailed for disobeying a court order to appear before a commission probing massive state corruption under his nine-year tenure.

Zuma defiantly declared on Sunday he was prepared to go prison, even though “sending me to jail during the height of a pandemic, at my age, is the same as sentencing me to death.”

A former fighter against white-minority government in South Africa who spent 10 years in prison Robben Island, Zuma comparing the country’s’ judiciary to “apartheid-type rule”.

“I am facing a long detention without trial,” he said. AFP