South Africa’s Top Court To Review Zuma Jail Term

In this file photo taken on July 27, 2018, former South African president Jacob Zuma stands in the dock of the High Court of Pietermaritzburg during his hearing over 16 corruption charges. Former South African president Jacob Zuma must pay back state funds and cover his own costs, a court ruled on December 13, 2018, leaving him facing massive legal bills as he fights graft charges.
Phill MAGAKOE / POOL / AFP

 

 

South African ex-president Jacob Zuma will on Monday ask the nation’s top court to let him out of jail by rescinding its 15-month sentence for snubbing anti-graft investigators.

The Constitutional Court on June 29 slapped Zuma with the prison stretch for refusing to appear before a probe into the corruption that mired his nine years in power.

Zuma is seeking to have that ruling set aside on the grounds that it was made in his absence.

Should the bid fail, Zuma’s team will seek to convince the judges that jail time is not the appropriate punishment for this instance of contempt, due to reasons including the implications for Zuma’s health, according to an information handout for media from the court on Saturday.

Zuma, 79, is also asking to be released from the Estcourt prison in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province on the grounds of his age and ailing health, adding that the ongoing pandemic means he is not a flight risk.

The man once dubbed the “Teflon president”, spent his first night in jail on Thursday after handing himself in to authorities following hours of drama and suspense.

His lawyers had also petitioned the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal to stave off imprisonment. But on Friday it rejected the case, saying it lacked jurisdiction over the matter and Zuma’s claims about his health were “not supported by any evidence.”

The former president testified to the commission once in July 2019, but then swiftly withdrew his cooperation, saying he was offended by being treated as an “accused” and not as a witness.

He returned in November 2020, without uttering a word, and missed several subsequent appointments by evading his summonses on various grounds, including medical reasons, lack of funds and his request to have the chairman of the commission, then-deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, recuse himself.

If Zuma is to serve the full term, he could still see himself back home long before year-end as he would be eligible for parole in less than four months.

Meanwhile, sporadic violence has erupted in the country, with dozens arrested after looting in KwaZulu-Natal and in the economic capital Johannesburg.

AFP

S.Africa’s Ramaphosa Rebuked For Misleading Parliament

File: Cyril Ramaphosa.

 

South Africa’s ethics watchdog on Friday said President Cyril Ramaphosa misled parliament last year over a 500,000-rand ($36,000, 32,000-euro) donation to his campaign fund from a company facing extensive corruption allegations.

Analysts said the damning report by the country’s ombudswoman, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, could boost Ramaphosa’s opponents within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, which is riven by in-fighting.

Mkhwebane determined that the president had given parliament “erroneous” information when responding to an opposition question over the October 2017 donation.

Ramaphosa initially told lawmakers that the payment was to his son Andile for consultancy work for Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations (AGO).

But Ramaphosa later said it was a donation towards his campaign to become ANC party leader — a hard-fought battle in which he beat ex-president Jacob Zuma’s chosen candidate.

Ramaphosa reacted strongly to the report, saying in a statement that it was “unfortunate” that Mkhwebane had not “given due consideration” to his explanation that he did not know about the donation.

Ramaphosa “reaffirms his determination and commitment to fight all forms of corruption” and that “no person regardless of the position they hold is above law”, the statement said.

He has promised to return the funds.

In the report released on Friday, Mkhwebane said that despite Ramaphosa correcting himself “he indeed misled parliament”.

“He should have allowed himself sufficient time to research on a well-informed response,” she said.

After taking over when graft-tainted Zuma was ousted in 2018, Ramaphosa led the ANC to victory in May elections, staking his reputation on fighting corruption.

‘Damaging’ criticism

The findings against the president were “more damaging than expected”, said Darias Jonker of the London-based Eurasia risk consultancy.

The ANC is bitterly split between Zuma supporters and those backing Ramaphosa, who took the helm after Zuma became entangled in graft scandals.

“This report will add to the (pro-Zuma) faction’s plans to neutralize and remove Ramaphosa, as they are threatened by his anti-corruption campaign,” Jonker said.

But he ruled out Ramaphosa facing criminal charges or removal by parliament “in the short-term”.

Mkhwebane is the Public Protector, a powerful watchdog in South Africa who should be politically independent, although critics accuse her of being a Zuma loyalist.

Zuma on Friday withdrew from testifying to an inquiry into corruption during his rule, complaining of bias, though he may return at a later date.

In the corruption scandal popularly referred to as “state capture”, he is alleged to have overseen mass looting of public assets during his nine-year tenure.

Mkhwebane added that the funds for Ramaphosa’s campaign were moved from one account to another, raising suspicion of “money-laundering”.

She asked the country’s prosecution authority to investigate and also gave the speaker of parliament 30 days to demand Ramaphosa divulge publicly all the donations he received towards his campaign.

Ramaphosa’s office said he would study the report in detail and decide on any further action.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance party, which first raised questions about the donation to Ramaphosa, called for lawmakers to take decisive action.

“It is time that parliament regain its teeth so that no individual who rises to the office of president will ever be able to abuse that power,” DA leader Mmusi Maimane told reporters.

He demanded that Ramaphosa appear before a special parliamentary committee, saying “what is clear is that this matter runs much deeper than initially thought.”

South African Court Acquits Zuma’s Son Over Car Crash

South Africa Police Launch Manhunt For Killers Of Nigerian

 

A South African court on Friday acquitted Duduzane Zuma, the son of former president Jacob Zuma, of manslaughter charges over a fatal late-night car crash in 2014.

Duduzane, 35, had pleaded not guilty at a magistrates’ court in Johannesburg to causing the death of Phumzile Dube after his Porsche hit a minibus.

One woman died in the crash, three others were injured and another passenger died in hospital weeks later.

Magistrate Tebogo Thupaatlase said the state had failed to prove the manslaughter charges beyond reasonable doubt.

“The accused is found not guilty,” he said.

“None of the evidence presented established that there was anything that a reasonable man in the position of the accused, on that night would have foreseen.”

READ ALSO: Nigerian Man Arrested, Charged For Murder Of American Student

Zuma had testified that his car had spun out of control after hitting a pool of water.

Amid tight security, former president Zuma was at the court to support his son, as well as Duduzane’s twin sister Duduzile.

“The court assessed the situation well and the court’s decision has made me happy,” Jacob Zuma told reporters after the ruling.

Zuma, 76, was forced to resign in February 2018 over corruption allegations centred around the Gupta business family, who reportedly held such sway that they picked cabinet ministers.

Duduzane was previously employed by the Guptas.

Jacob Zuma, who has five wives and at least 20 children, has been charged with 16 counts of graft linked to an arms deal from before he became president.

AFP