Jacob Zuma sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court

Jacob Zuma condenado a 15 meses de prisão por desrespeito ao Tribunal

South Africa's Constitutional Court on Tuesday sentenced former President Jacob Zuma to 15 months in prison for refusing to appear before an anti-corruption commission.

"The Constitutional Court has no option but to declare that Mr. Zuma is guilty of contempt of justice," said Judge Sisi Khampepe of South Africa's highest court.

Since the creation in 2018 of the commission charged with investigating widespread corruption during his nine years in power, Jacob Zuma, implicated by some 40 testimonies, has multiplied maneuvers to avoid having to explain himself, accumulating appeals or asserting his right to silence.

After an umpteenth summons to appear in late February, the commission demanded a two-year prison sentence against the former head of state.

The former president has ignored not only the commission, but also a January court ruling that required him to appear and deprived him of the right to remain silent.

At a virtual hearing in March, the commission's lawyer, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, said the question was no longer whether the former president should go to prison, but "how long he should stay there." Zuma's status as a former president "does not protect him from the law," he said.

A few weeks later, in a rather unusual request, the South African judiciary asked the former president to determine for himself "the appropriate punishment" ahead of Tuesday's hearing.

Jacob Zuma, 79, has only testified once before the anti-corruption commission, in July 2019. He quickly slammed the door, taking offense at being treated as "an accused."

Involved in scandals, he had been forced to resign in 2018. He was replaced by the current President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has made the fight against corruption a hobbyhorse, but was himself called to testify before the commission.

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