Opinion on Zuma Sentencing Polarises Nation

By Oliver Ngwenya    30-Jun-2021 20:58 UTC+02:00

Former President Zuma
Image: SABC

The ruling of the Constitutional Court ruling that the former President of the Republic of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, hand himself over to the nearest police station to start serving a 15-month jail term, has created a huge debate across the length and breadth of the country.

On Tuesday, the acting Chief Justice, Sisi Mampepe, ruled that Jacob Zuma must hand himself over to the nearest police station, either in Johannesburg or in his hometown of Nkandla. According to Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile, her father was in high spirits after hearing the Concourt judgment and was not in fear at all. She added that she was sure that he would be handing himself to either of the police stations. However, she said that it would most likely be the Nkandla police station as it was closer to home.

On Wednesday, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema, weighed in on the issue and said that the judgment was a victory for democracy in the country. He went on to advise his former leader that he should be prepared for the prison term, adding that it would also pass. “Thank you Constitutional Court of SA for protecting our democracy and once more proving we are all equal before the law. Strength comrade [former] president Jacob Zuma, this too shall pass,” he tweeted.

The polarization went as far as the legal circles, with the current Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane saying that she was not in agreement with the ruling. Even though she said that she was still to study the ruling, the Public Ombudsman, who was appointed in October 2016 by Jacob Zuma, said that she was siding with the minority Constitutional Court Judges who had been set against the ruling against jailing the former president.

Mkhwebane was referring to judges of the constitutional court who had expressed opposing opinions against sending Zuma to prison. Justice Leona Theron and Chris Jafta had made a minority judgment which was against Zuma getting arrested. In making their ruling, the judges argued that since Zuma’s contempt of court was civil rather than criminal, an unsuspended sentence was tantamount to a violation of Zuma’s rights.

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