NKANDLA, South Africa, July 3 (Reuters) – Hundreds of supporters of South Africa’s Jacob Zuma gathered to greet the former president in his hometown of Nkandla on Saturday, a show of force against a court decision to jail him for 15 months for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry.
The constitutional court on Tuesday gave Zuma 15 months in jail for absconding in February from the inquiry led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Zuma has until the end of Sunday to present himself to the police, after which they are obliged to arrest him.
The jail sentence was seen as sign of just how far Zuma, once a revered veteran of the struggle against white minority rule, has fallen since embarking on a presidency beset by multiple sleaze and graft scandals.
His downfall has divided the ruling African National Congress, which cancelled an executive committee meeting over the weekend in order to focus on the ensuing crisis.
The ex-leader has applied to the court for the sentence to be annulled on the grounds that it is excessive and could expose him to COVID-19.
Zuma wore a black and gold tropical shirt as he walked through his crowd of adorers, but no mask or any other COVID-19 protection on his face. He was guarded by men dressed as traditional warriors from his Zulu ethnic group, wearing leopard skins and holding spears with oval ox-hide shields.
In an application to annul the decision submitted on Friday, Zuma said going to jail “would put him at the highest risk of death” from the pandemic, because he was nearly 80 and has a medical condition.
(Reporting by Siyabonga Sishi Writing by Tim Cocks and David Holmes)
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