Former South African President Jacob Zuma was sentenced to prison by South Africa’s highest court on contempt charges after defying an order to appear before a corruption inquiry.CreditCredit...Pool photo by Kim Ludbrook

South African authorities have sent soldiers to two regions to assist police in dealing with former President Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment. At least seven people have been murdered, and over 200 have been detained due to looting and arson assaults that erupted in Zuma’s home region of Kwa-Zulu Natal on Thursday when he began his 15-month prison sentence.

Pro-Zuma demonstrators initially took to the streets on Wednesday, when the 79-year-old former president surrendered to authorities to begin his term.

According to the authorities, criminals took advantage of the circumstance. Protests subsequently extended from the former president’s home region of KwaZulu-Natal to Johannesburg, Gauteng, with pictures showing houses and businesses on fire. The police were forced to seek assistance from the army.

Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, was arrested on Wednesday and will begin serving a 15-month prison sentence after being found guilty of contempt for failing to appear before a commission investigating corruption.CreditCredit…Shiraaz Mohamed/Associated Press

Last Wednesday, Zuma was admitted to the Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal. The 79-year-old was sentenced to prison on June 29 after failing to appear in a corruption investigation. It was the first time in South African history that a former president was imprisoned.

The former president has been granted five days to surrender. If he refused, authorities had until the end of last Wednesday to arrest and bring him in. Zuma initially declined to turn himself in, but the Jacob Zuma Foundation announced that he had “decided to comply on Wednesday.”

Zuma failed to appear before a corruption inquiry headed by Raymond Zondo, the deputy chief justice, in February. The inquiry is looking at high-level corruption allegations. The seasoned politician has denied any misconduct. Zuma initiated the corruption probe himself, under pressure from the governing African National Congress, shortly before he was ousted in 2018. He did, however, only testify once, in July 2019, before staging a walkout a few days later.

He declined to return to court many times, claiming medical reasons and preparations for a new corruption prosecution as excuses. He returned in November for a brief appearance but left before being questioned.

In a second case, Zuma is facing corruption allegations connected with fighter aircraft, patrol boats, and military equipment from five European arms firms for 30 billion rands (about $5 billion) in 1999. At the time of the purchase, Zuma was President Thabo Mbeki’s deputy.

Zuma has filed two legal cases to avoid going to jail. He petitioned the Constitutional Court to have his conviction overturned. On Monday, July 12, that application will be heard. The High Court of South Africa rejected a request to postpone his arrest on Friday.

Supporters of former South African President Jacob Zuma staged a massive demonstration against his incarceration on Saturday, torching vehicles and commercial property and blocking key highways in KwaZulu-Natal province.

They asked that he be released from jail immediately.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court earlier this week. A provincial court denied his request for parole from the Estcourt Correctional Centre on Friday, and he plans to appeal to the country’s highest court tomorrow.

His followers in KwaZulu-Natal, his home province, stopped highways, set vehicles on fire, and destroyed stores, which they subsequently plundered throughout the province.

According to witnesses, approximately 20 vehicles were halted and set on fire early yesterday at Mooi River, near Pietermaritzburg.

A truck transporting new luxury cars was spotted burning along a major highway. A truck belonging to the United Nations World Food Programme was also set ablaze after protestors stole sacks of maize meal from it. In addition, a major retail supermarket in the neighborhood was robbed.

According to police, 27 individuals were detained in connection with the burning and looting.

Police officers were stationed in more significant numbers in impacted regions, where they patrolled key highway exits and checked cars. Some vehicles were turned away from protest locations.

Hundreds of Zuma supporters gathered outside his house in Nkandla last weekend threatened violence if the former president was imprisoned.

Zuma surrendered to authorities late Wednesday night.

Zuma was imprisoned for refusing to appear before a state-backed commission investigating accusations of wrongdoing during his presidency from 2009 to 2018.

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