A former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, could be going to jail for two years at least, if the commission of inquiry charged to investigate allegations of bribery and embezzlement leveled against him, has its way at the country’s constitutional court.
The commission has referred to the constitutional court Zuma’s failure to appear before it last week as well as the ex-president’s refusal or inability to provide affidavits he has been ordered to. He is being accused of contempt by the commission for which the body has requested the jail term.
Zuma’s presidency between 2009 and 2018 has been identified by investigators as one of the most corrupt for the Rainbow Nation in the post-apartheid era. But Zuma has denied all accusations of wrongdoing.
Zuma’s woes have compounded since he resigned unceremoniously in 2018 due to these very allegations. In 2018, he was charged with 16 counts of fraud, racketeering and money laundering involving an arms deal from the late 1990s that cost $2.5 billion.
He is also accused of ceding political influence to members of the Gupta family who have been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department over corrupt activities. Some have alleged that the Gupta family was even allowed to appoint ministers and skip due process in transactions with the government.
The 78-year-old has also spoken through his lawyers of his disdain for the commission of inquiry that he believes is biased against him. In November, it was reported that Zuma refused to answer some questions, forcing the legal representative of the commission Paul Pistorius to say Zuma believes the inquiry is a “political conspiracy”.
The commission was not constituted with prosecutorial powers, however, bodies that can prosecute can fall on the commission’s findings. This may be the reason why Zuma’s corner holds reservations over how the commission has allowed witnesses whose accounts have implicated the former president in corrupt activities.
Witnesses before the commission have included former cabinet ministers and lawmakers.