NKANDLA, South Africa —
Former South African president Jacob Zuma on Tuesday continued his efforts to avoid imprisonment by urging a regional court to block his arrest by police.
Zuma’s lawyers called on the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal province to stop the order made last week by the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, that police must arrest Zuma by midnight on Wednesday after he was sentenced last week to 15 months in prison for contempt of court.
Zuma’s lawyers argued that the court should stop the police from arresting him until the Constitutional Court rules on his application to rescind the sentence, which will be heard on July 12.
He has been found guilty of contempt after failing to obey the court’s order to appear before the commission investigating allegations of corruption when he was president from 2009 to 2018.
Zuma’s lawyer, Dali Mpofu, argued in court on Tuesday that police minister Bheki Cele had not opposed Zuma’s application and that nobody had argued that he was a flight risk or would evade arrest if his application failed.
Over the weekend, hundreds of Zuma’s supporters had gathered outside his homestead in the rural area of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal, vowing to prevent any attempts to arrest him. Defying the country’s COVID-19 regulations against public gatherings, they grouped together, many without masks, and sang songs praising Zuma’s role in the fight against apartheid, South Africa’s previous regime of white minority rule.
The African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela which Zuma led from 2007 to 2017, on Tuesday condemned the actions of Zuma’s supporters and urged support for the rule of law.
The ANC’s National Executive Committee said it deplored the “counter-revolutionary calls for violence and even civil war, parading of armed groups and flagrant display of weapons” outside Zuma’s home.
By Tuesday the crowds supporting Zuma had dispersed just a few of Zuma’s supporters stood at the entrance to his home.
Several armed police officers could be seen monitoring the area and at least three police vehicles could be seen patrolling around Zuma’s home.