Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, who is currently facing a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court, said on Sunday that sending him to jail amid the prevailing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic at his age would be equivalent to a death sentence, news agency PTI reported.
"Sending me to jail during the height of a pandemic at my age is the same as sentencing me to death. The death sentence was declared unconstitutional in South Africa in 1995," Zuma, 79, said while addressing a press briefing at his homestead in Nkandla. For the past several days, scores of Zuma's supporters have been camping outside his homestead to express solidarity.
During Sunday's briefing, Zuma repeatedly ignored questions from journalists with regard to reprimanding his supporters who were flouting Covid-19 lockdown rules. They were also seen brandishing weapons and threatened to resort to violence if their beloved leader was jailed.
The Constitutional Court on Saturday agreed to hear an application by Zuma to rescind the judgement where the former president cited his age, health condition and other unspecified reasons, PTI further reported. The hearing will now take place on July 12. Earlier, the court on June 29 found Zuma guilty of violating the order to testify before Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Zuma, meanwhile, said that he was unfairly convicted by the court, adding he feared that the country's judicial system was being compromised. "I'm very concerned that South Africa is fast sliding back to apartheid-type rule. I am facing a long detention without trial," Zuma told reporters on Sunday.
Jacob Zuma was the fourth democratically elected president of South Africa. He has been facing an enquiry probing wide-ranging allegations of corruption when he was serving in the top governmental post from 2009 to 2018
The government estimates show that during his tenure, over 500 billion rand (around $35 billion) were stolen from state officers. Several witnesses who have testified before an inquiry headed by acting Chief Justice Zondo, have placed Jacob Zuma at the centre of the looting spree, according to Bloomberg.