No former South African president has ever served time following his term—until early Thursday, reports the BBC. With the clock ticking on the midnight deadline to arrest him, Jacob Zuma left his Nkandla home late Wednesday in a convoy of vehicles and turned himself in, complying with an order from the country's highest court, the Constitutional Court, that he should serve a 15-month sentence for contempt. Zuma was sentenced last Tuesday for failing to testify at an inquiry into corruption that allegedly occurred during his nine years as president, which ran from 2009 to 2018. The Zuma Foundation said simply: "President Zuma has decided to comply with the incarceration order," and South Africa police confirmed the 79-year-old was in custody.
For how long is unclear. The Constitutional Court will on Monday hear his application to rescind his sentence. The AP gives context on Zuma's fall from grace:
- Decades ago Zuma developed a reputation as a staunch opponent of apartheid and was jailed for 10 years ending in 1973 at the Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela was held. By the time South Africa legalized the African National Congress party in 1990, Zuma had become a higher-up in the party and helped negotiate the political settlement that led to the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.
- Fast forward to present day: The judicial inquiry into corruption during his term as president heard "damning testimony," with former Cabinet ministers and executives of state-owned corporations saying Zuma allowed his associates, members of the Gupta family, to influence his Cabinet appointments and win lucrative contracts.
- The read on the situation from the BBC's Farouk Chothia: "It is an ignominious end to Mr. Zuma's political career, but a proud moment for South Africa's democracy. It shows that no one is above the law—not even a former president."
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