South African police say they are ready to arrest ex-president Jacob Zuma, who has been slapped with a 15-month jail term, unless ordered otherwise by the country’s top court.
Johannesburg – South African police said Wednesday they were ready to arrest ex-president Jacob Zuma, who has been slapped with a 15-month jail term, unless ordered otherwise by the country’s top court.
On Tuesday, lawyers for the police wrote to the Constitutional Court seeking to pause an order to arrest Zuma given what they called the “unique situation.”
But on Wednesday, the police minister’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, told AFP, “If we don’t hear anything from the Constitutional Court – which we haven’t heard so far – we have until midnight tonight to execute the order.”
The former head of state was convicted for contempt of court last week after he snubbed anti-graft investigators.
He was told to turn himself in by midnight last Sunday, failing which police would be instructed to arrest him within the following three days.
Police Minister Bheki Cele was quoted in local media on Wednesday as saying he would not take the blame if there was a failure to arrest Zuma.
“I’m not prepared to be charged for contempt of court,” online site News24 quoted him as saying.
Zuma did not turn himself in on Sunday on the grounds that he had mounted a two-pronged defence against the jail ordeer.
The Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday heard a first application to halt execution of the imminent arrest. A ruling is expected on Friday.
Attorney Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, on behalf of the anti-corruption panel, told the court “the order is manifest. All it needs to be done is to be enforced. Unless the police themselves obtain an order stopping themselves from executing”.
Zuma has separately pleaded with the Constitutional Court to reconsider and rescind its jail order. That challenge will be heard next Monday.
Zuma was found guilty after refusing to obey a court order to appear before a commission probing so-called state capture – the siphoning off of national assets, which occurred on a massive scale under his nine-year tenure.
Zuma has also been accused of involvement in a bribery affair dating back more than 20 years.
He faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to a 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military gear from five European arms firms for 30 billion rand, then the equivalent of nearly $5 billion
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