Supporters form ‘human shield’ to stop ex-president’s arrest

Former President Zuma says the corruption charges against him are politically motivated

Supporters of South African ex-President Jacob Zuma have formed what they say is a human shield outside his home to try to prevent his arrest.

On Tuesday the constitutional court found him guilty of contempt for defying its order to appear before an inquiry into corruption.

He was ordered to report to the nearest police station by midnight on Sunday and begin a 15-month jail sentence.

Mr Zuma has launched an appeal against the ruling.

Although the constitutional court has agreed to consider the challenge, Mr Zuma remains at risk of arrest if he does not meet the Sunday deadline, analysts say.

Hundreds of supporters have been gathering outside his homestead in the eastern town of Nkandla this week.

More arrived on Sunday, with many vowing to form a human shield to stop any arrest.

Supporters’ gathering illegal under Covid laws

Nomsa Maseko, BBC News, Nkandla

Supporters dance in front of former South African president Jacob Zuma's rural home in Nkandla on July 3, 2021

Supporters dance in front of former South African president Jacob Zuma’s rural home in Nkandla on July 3, 2021

“A messy confrontation would’ve ensued if police dared to arrest men” said Jacob Zuma to hundreds of his supporters who erupted in loud cheers and whistling.

His supporters dressed in Zulu traditional outfits, others in ANC T-shirts with his face on them, have been camping outside his home in Nkandla to form a human shield to prevent him from being arrested ever since the courts ruled Mr Zuma should be jailed.

The gathering by his supporters is actually illegal under the country’s regulations aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.

But there are no police officers in sight to disperse the gathering, leading many to say that the former president is above the law and that justice is not seen to be done when it comes to powerful politicians.

Mr Zuma has repeatedly told his supporters that he doesn’t fear imprisonment, but behind the scenes his legal team is working around the clock to keep him out.

The Constitutional Court has said it will consider Mr Zuma’s appeal on 12 July. In the meantime, another appeal against the arrest order is expected to be heard by the high court of KwaZulu-Natal province on Tuesday.

The 79-year-old political veteran was ousted in 2018 after nine years in power, amid corruption allegations.

Businessmen were accused of conspiring with politicians to influence the decision-making process.

But Mr Zuma has repeatedly said that he is the victim of a political conspiracy.

The former president testified only once at the inquiry into what has become known as “state capture” but then refused to appear subsequently.

In a separate legal matter, Mr Zuma pleaded not guilty last month in a corruption trial involving a $5bn (£3bn) arms deal from the 1990s.

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