Jacob Zuma: South Africa’s former president hands himself over to police

former president Jacob Zuma
The former president was sentenced to 15 months in jail last week

Former South African President Jacob Zuma has handed himself into police to begin serving a jail sentence for contempt of court.

His foundation said he had travelled to a prison near to his home in KwaZulu-Natal province late on Wednesday.

Police had warned that they were prepared to arrest Mr Zuma, 79, if he failed to hand himself in.

Last week, he was given a 15-month jail term for contempt of court after he failed to attend a corruption inquiry.


The sentencing sparked an unprecedented legal drama in South Africa, with a deadline imposed of midnight on Wednesday (22:00 GMT) for Mr Zuma’s arrest.

The deadline was imposed after Mr Zuma refused to hand himself in on Sunday.

image captionMr Zuma’s supporters protested against his arrest on Sunday

South Africa has never seen a former president jailed before.

Mr Zuma, 79, was forced to resign in 2018 after nine years in power.

Though he was forced out of office by his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), he retains a loyal body of supporters, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

On Sunday, crowds formed what they called a human shield outside Mr Zuma’s palatial home. Similar crowds gathered before he handed himself in on Wednesday.


An ignominious end

Analysis by Farouk Chothia, BBC News

Mr Zuma was once an illustrious political figure, who was jailed for fighting the racist system of apartheid in South Africa.

Now, he has been arrested for being contemptuous of South Africa’s most senior judges – the guardians of the democracy he fought for – as he tried to evade accountability over the deluge of corruption allegations he faced during his presidency.

It is an ignominious end to Mr Zuma’s political career, but a proud moment for South Africa’s democracy. It shows that no one is above the law – not even a former president.

His supporters threatened to block any attempt by police to arrest him, but in the end they did not have to. The 79-year-old surrendered, knowing he could not defeat the might of the state.


The BBC’s Nomsa Maseko, who was outside Mr Zuma’s home on Wednesday, noted that there was a large police presence outside the property that included armed officers and a paramilitary unit.

A delegation of senior officers are believed to have spent several hours inside Mr Zuma’s residence negotiating with the former president over his arrest.

A convoy of cars, on of which was carrying Mr Zuma, was then seen leaving the house at high-speed shortly before the midnight deadline for his detention.

Mr Zuma, a veteran of the fight against white minority rule in South Africa who was imprisoned for 10 years on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela, previously declared that he was prepared to go to prison.

However, he said that “sending me to jail during the height of a pandemic, at my age, is the same as sentencing me to death”.




Mr Zuma has also repeatedly said that he is the victim of a political conspiracy. He has testified only once at the corruption inquiry into what has become known as “state capture” – siphoning off state assets – refusing to appear again.

In a separate legal matter, Mr Zuma pleaded not guilty last month in a corruption trial involving a $5bn (£3bn) arms deal from the 1990s.

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