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Judge Wants Zuma Jailed For ‘Contempt of court’

A South African judge says he wants ex-President Jacob Zuma to be given a jail sentence for failing to appear before him to answer corruption allegations.

Mr Zuma, 79, ignored a summons to appear before a commission of inquiry being chaired by Justice Ray Zondo.

The judge said Mr Zuma’s defiance could lead to lawlessness, and he would ask South Africa’s highest court to convict the ex-president of contempt.

Mr Zuma said he believed that Justice Zondo was biased against him.

He previously asked the judge to step down as chair of the inquiry.

Justice Zondo rejected the request, and said he was doing his job impartially.

At least 40 witnesses have implicated Mr Zuma in corruption.

Among the allegations against him is that during his term in office, he allowed the wealthy Gupta family to plunder state resources and to influence policy and cabinet appointments.

Both Mr Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing.

The Constitutional Court ruled last month that Mr Zuma was compelled to appear before the commission.

Following his non-appearance on Monday, Justice Zondo said everyone was equal before the law and if Mr Zuma was allowed to defy the courts it would have far-reaching implications for democracy.

Mr Zuma has not commented since the judge’s ruling, but has previously said he is not afraid to go to jail.

But some of his supporters, dressed in military fatigue, have marched outside his rural home, vowing to protect him.

Mr Zuma was forced to step down as president in 2018 after being dogged by allegations of corruption throughout his nine years in office.

His successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, took office on a pledge to tackle the issue.

In an extraordinary display of contempt for the rule of law in South Africa, the former president defied both a legal summons, and a ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court.

Instead of answering dozens of allegations of corruption made against him by witnesses at a public inquiry, Mr Zuma chose to stay at his rural home, guarded by supporters who said they would fight to prevent his arrest.

The inquiry’s judge – quietly furious – said he would now seek a prison sentence for Mr Zuma, for contempt of court.

That would be a truly seismic moment for this young democracy.

Some may dismiss Mr Zuma’s defiance as an act of desperation by a disgraced politician already facing multiple charges of corruption.

But this is a volatile period for South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC).

Other powerful figures also implicated in corruption are staging a fight-back, with Mr Zuma’s blessing, looking to seize control of the party – and the country – once again.

President Ramaphosa is still widely respected here. But the ANC’s power struggles could yet unseat him.

With its economy battered by the pandemic, and the fight against corruption by no means won, South Africa is facing some daunting challenges.

BBC.COM

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