Jacob Zuma on Thursday began a 15-month sentence for contempt of court, becoming post-apartheid South Africa’s first President to be jailed after a drama that campaigners said ended in a victory for rule of law.
Zuma, 79, reported to prison early Thursday after mounting a last-ditch legal bid and stoking defiance among radical supporters who had rallied at his rural home.
South Africa’s top court on June 29 slapped Zuma with a 15-month term for refusing an order to appear before a probe into the corruption that entangled his nine years in power. As police warned that he faced arrest from midnight Wednesday, Zuma handed himself in to a jail in the rural town of Estcourt in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Many South Africans hailed his incarceration as a watershed moment.
Former corruption buster and ex-ombudswoman Thuli Madonsela hailed it as a “glorious day, in that it says that the rule of law prevails”. If he had not gone to prison, “it would have sent shock waves to the system,” she said.
Investigators say that under Zuma, billions of dollars in state assets were siphoned off by cronies.
Zuma had been given a deadline of Sunday night for turning himself in. Failing his surrender, police were given three days, until midnight Wednesday, to arrest him.