South Africa’s top court ruled that former President Jacob Zuma must remain in jail serving his 15-month sentence for failing to attend a corruption inquiry.
The sentence came in June after Zuma failed to testify at an inquiry probing corruption during his nine-year rule, seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law, particularly against powerful politicians.
Zuma, recuperating in hospital after undergoing surgery for an undisclosed illness, asked the court in July to revoke its sentence for contempt arguing it was excessive, and that jail would endanger his health and life. In a majority decision on Friday, the Constitutional Court rejected his arguments.
It was the latest legal setback for the 79-year-old anti-apartheid veteran from the ruling African National Congress, whose presidency between 2009 and 2018 was marred by widespread allegations of corruption and malfeasance. He denies all wrongdoing.
Zuma’s jailing two months ago, after handing himself over to police at the last minute, led to riots, looting and vandalism in South Africa, killing more than 300 people and costing businesses billions.
His successor Cyril Ramaphosa described the unrest as an orchestrated attempt to destabilise the country and pledged to crack down on alleged instigators.
The violence was also fuelled by simmering frustration among largely black communities still living in squalid conditions long after the ANC swept to power in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.