Cape Town – Former president Jacob Zuma’s lawyers have written a letter to the Constitutional Court begging it to issue a directive barring his imminent arrest by the police, reports say.
“We write to request that you issue a directive in terms of which the execution of the committal orders of the Constitution (sic) is suspended pending the outcome of the judgment on Friday 9 July 2021 alternatively pending the outcome of the judgment to be heard by the Constitutional Court on Monday, 12 July 2021 [Zuma’s application for a rescission of the contempt ruling against him],” Zuma’s leagl team wrote.
The Foundation wishes to inform the Nation that a letter has been sent to the Constitutional Court to issue a directive prohibiting the execution of the Arrest Order pending the outcome of all legal processes.#WenzenuZuma
— JGZuma Foundation (Official) (@JGZ_Foundation) July 7, 2021
This was after the South African police warned on Wednesday that they were prepared to arrest Zuma by a midnight deadline to enforce a jail sentence against him unless the country’s top court instructed otherwise.
In a historic ruling, the Constitutional Court last week handed Zuma a 15-month term for snubbing anti-graft investigators.
Zuma mounted a last-ditch legal defence and refused to turn himself in by Sunday night as the court ordered. Under the ruling, police were given three days to arrest him if he failed to surrender.
“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 (arrest) order,” police minister’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, told AFP.
On Tuesday, police had appeared to give Zuma a breathing space, saying they would wait until the outcome of his legal battle — a process that culminates on July 12.
Zuma’s first application to halt execution of his imminent arrest was heard on Tuesday but the judgement was reserved until Friday.
Separately, he has pleaded with the Constitutional Court to reconsider and rescind its jail order. That challenge will be heard next Monday.
The warning came after Police Minister Bheki Cele was quoted in local media 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.
Police officers were stationed in Empangeni, a town 115 kilometres (70 miles) from Zuma’s rural Nkandla home in southeastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province, according to local media.
Zuma’s foundation tweeted Wednesday that it was “very concerned about unfolding developments and (was) monitoring the situation very closely.”
His lawyers “are in touch with the relevant authorities,” it said.
Attorney Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, on behalf of the anti-corruption panel, told Tuesday’s court hearing that the arrest order “is manifest. All it needs to be done is to be enforced”.
Zuma, 79, was forced out of office in 2018 and replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa after a nine-year tenure stained by corruption scandals and the taint of cronyism.
Critics nicknamed him the “Teflon president” for his perceived ability to sidestep the verdict of justice.
But his fortunes changed on June 29 when the paramount court issued a damning judgement against him for contempt.
He had refused to obey a court order to appear before a commission probing the siphoning off of state assets under his presidency.
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Despite his tarnished reputation, Zuma carries substantial weight among officials and grassroots members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
The former herdboy was the ANC’s intelligence chief during the armed struggle against apartheid and spent 10 years in jail on notorious Robben Island.
Despite its internal tensions, the ANC said it would not interfere with the judiciary processes enveloping Zuma.
“These are matters for (the) law enforcement agencies,” party spokesman Pule Made told reporters.
The ANC would not want any “political interfence” in the case, Made said. “We respect the independence of the judiciary”.
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.
Additional reporting by AFP
Picture: Getty Images