South Africa’s ex-president Jacob Zuma gets 15 months in prison for contempt

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South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma has been found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months in prison for defying a court order to appear before an inquiry probing wide-ranging allegations of corruption during his tenure from 2009 to 2018.

Zuma was not in court for the ruling on Tuesday and has been ordered to hand himself over within five days to a police station in his hometown of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province or in Johannesburg.

This is the first time in South Africa’s history that a former president has been sentenced to prison.

The commission of inquiry is headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

The panel was set up by Zuma himself, under pressure over mounting scandals, shortly before he was ousted in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

But he only testified once, in July 2019, before staging a walkout days later and accusing the commission’s Zondo of bias.

He then ignored several invitations to reappear, citing medical reasons and preparations for another corruption trial.

He presented himself again briefly in November but left before questioning, and Zondo asked to ask the Constitutional Court to intervene.

Most of the graft investigated by the commission involve three brothers from a wealthy Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative government contracts and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.

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.

At the time of the purchase, Zuma was president Thabo Mbeki’s deputy.

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