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Zuma preparing court applications to avoid prison

Former president Jacob Zuma’s legal team will on Friday file urgent court applications to challenge the constitutional court’s sentence of 15-months for contempt and stay his pending arrest.

Sources close to the case said interested parties have been notified that applications both at the constitutional court and the KwaZulu-Natal high court would be filed during the course of the day.

On Tuesday, the apex court handed Zuma an unprecedented sentence of direct imprisonment for defying its earlier order that he comply with summons served by the Zondo commission and further scandalising the authority probing state capture in a string of political attacks.

“Never before has the legitimacy of this court, nor the authority vested in the rule of law, been subjected to the kind of sacrilegious attacks that Mr Zuma, no less in stature than a former president of this Republic, has elected to launch,” the court held in a majority judgment penned and delivered by Acting Deputy Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe.

Khampepe has signed a warrant of arrest for Zuma, directing that he be held at the Westville Prison in KwaZulu-Natal.

The court gave him five calendar days to hand himself over, failing which the minister and national commissioner of police have three days to ensure his arrest.

An urgent application of rescission in response to a constitutional court ruling would be unprecedented, lawyers said on Friday, and is unlikely to succeed. But it may buy Zuma time as he continues to seek to shore up political support.

The constitutional court would make provisions for it to be heard, and the Zondo commission would have the right to oppose it because it brought the application for the contempt order. Sources at the court were aware of Zuma’s plans to bring applications, but not the exact content.

Zuma, 78, has seized on the dissenting minority ruling in the matter, penned by Justice Leonara Theron, to denounce the sentence as unconstitutional.

In a statement issued by his eponymous foundation on Wednesday night, he accused the majority of handing down an emotional sentence. The statement suggested that the former president was not prepared to hand himself over.
Zuma recently enlisted advocate Dali Mpofu as his lead counsel in his corruption trial and he is also advising him on the contempt case.

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