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He Once Ruled South Africa. Now, a Prison Sentence

High court finds Jacob Zuma in contempt of court in corruption case, gives him 15 months in jail
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2021 6:39 AM CDT

(Newser) – Jacob Zuma's legal problems just worsened. Last month, the former president of South Africa pleaded not guilty to corruption, fraud, and other charges tied to a multibillion-dollar arms deal in 1999, when he was the deputy president. On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the nation's highest court, found the 79-year-old guilty of contempt of court in another corruption case and sentenced him to 15 months in prison, CNN reports. The charges and sentencing are the result of Zuma refusing to show up before a commission to face questions about alleged corruption that took place while he was president, a term that stretched from 2009 to 2018. "No person is above the law ... whatever his rank or condition," Justice Sisi Khampepe noted in the court's ruling.

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She added: "An act of defiance in respect of a direct judicial order has the potential to precipitate a constitutional crisis." Zuma, who sang at Nelson Mandela's funeral in December 2013, wasn't in court and wasn't immediately taken into custody, per the New York Times, which notes the former president never even bothered to pull together any kind of defense on the contempt charges. South Africa's current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is in the midst of a campaign to get rid of corruption in government, specifically in the governing African National Congress party. Per the BBC, the court has given Zuma five days to turn himself in to police; if he doesn't, his arrest will be ordered. A Zuma spokesperson tells local broadcaster eNCA that his legal team needs to review the ruling before making a statement, Reuters reports. The trial for his arms case, which has been repeatedly delayed due to the pandemic, is now set to start next month. (Read more Jacob Zuma stories.)

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