Former president Jacob Zuma has compared his 15-month jail sentence to detention without trial, claiming that South Africa is sliding back to apartheid-type rule.
Addressing a media briefing on Sunday night, Zuma said that jailing him at the age of 79 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic amounted to a “death sentence’’, a punishment that had been repealed after the country became a democracy in 1994.
However, earlier on Sunday he had led a rally of hundreds of his supporters in contravention of the level-four Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
In the evening Zuma, flanked by his legal team and his daughter, Duduzile, said that the issuing of a “banning order” by the ANC preventing ANC secretary general Ace Magashule from addressing party meetings was an example of this “apartheid-type” rule.
So was the level-four lockdown, which had all the features of a state of emergency, including the curfews of the 1980s, Zuma said.
On Sunday, 175 people died of Covid-19 and the country recorded the highest number of infections since the outbreak began last year.
Zuma said that while the legal definitions had changed, “the substance [of being sent to jail without a trial] is exactly the same.”
“Being jailed without trial is not different from apartheid detention without trial,”’ Zuma said.
The former head of state addressed the media after a weekend of high drama, which included a speech to a crowd of supporters who had gathered at his home at Nxamalala village outside Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal, earlier in the day.
Zuma said he had chosen to challenge the decision of the Constitutional Court by peaceful means, not because he was afraid of going to jail, but because he believed that the court had acted in a biased fashion.
“I am not scared of going to jail for my beliefs. It will not be for the first time I will be a prisoner of my conscience and beliefs,” he said.
However, his family and comrades had insisted that he challenge the court ruling.
Zuma said his health and age were not considered in mitigation of sentence, but that he had instead been asked to make representations before he had been found guilty.
“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, as a result of my own sacrifices and those of millions of South Africans,” he said.
Zuma’s counsel, Dali Mpofu, said that his client would not be handing himself over to the police until the two court applications challenging the decision had been heard.
Zuma said he could not answer for his supporters, who had said they would not accept him going to jail under any circumstances. He also declined to comment on the actions of those who had fired shots into the air outside his home earlier in the day.
Zuma said that the actions of the state against him had parallels with the actions of the apartheid state and had, in fact, gone further by harrassing him and his family for more than 20 years.
Zuma failed to participate in the Constitutional Court process and also declined an invitation from Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to make representations to the court as to what sanction he should face.
The former president denied undermining the rule of law, saying that it was not him who had started the current crisis.
“I am not responsible for this problem,” Zuma said.