NKANDLA, South Africa — Former South African president Jacob Zuma has launched a last-ditch bid to avoid prison by asking the country’s acting chief justice to delay an order for his arrest.
Zuma’s lawyers have written to the country’s acting chief justice to issue an order postponing his arrest, which is to take place by Wednesday midnight as instructed by the country’s apex court, the Constitutional Court.
Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison last week for contempt because he defied a court order for him to testify before a judicial commission investigating widespread allegations of corruption during his time as the country’s president, from 2009 to 2018.
The Constitutional Court ordered that if Zuma did not voluntarily hand himself over to the police by Sunday then the police should arrest Zuma by the end of the day Wednesday.
In what appears to be a last-minute plea to avoid going to prison, Zuma has written to the acting chief justice requesting that his arrest be suspended until Friday, when a regional court will rule on his application to postpone the arrest. The letter has been seen by The Associated Press.
In the letter, Zuma’s lawyers say the police have informed them that they will be arresting him Wednesday night, according to the orders issued by the Constitutional Court last week.
Zuma’s lawyers asked the acting chief justice to issue directives stopping the police from arresting him, claiming there would be a “prejudice to his life.”
Zuma has launched two court proceedings to avoid arrest after his sentence last week.
He has applied at the Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa, for his sentence to be rescinded and the application will be heard on July 12.
On Tuesday, his lawyers were in the Pietermaritzburg High Court seeking to stop the minister of police from arresting him until the Constitutional Court rules on his application to have the sentence rescinded. The regional court will rule on that application on Friday.
A few of Zuma’s supporters wearing military camouflage stood guard outside his home in Nkandla, in rural KwaZulu-Natal province on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, a police vehicle approached the gate to Zuma’s homestead and spoke to the guards before turning away.
Political tensions have risen in KwaZulu-Natal province as a result of Zuma’s conviction, sentence and pending arrest. Hundreds of his supporters gathered at his home over the weekend and vowed to prevent his arrest, but they left on Sunday.
An increased police presence in Nkandla village near Zuma’s home was visible on Wednesday. Police vehicles patrolled the streets around his home and monitored the entrance to the village.