CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Jacob Zuma, the previous president of South Africa whose almost decade-long tenure was tainted by breathtaking corruption scandals, refused to look earlier than an inquiry panel Monday, elevating the chance that he can be imprisoned for contempt.
The panel’s chief, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, stated he was looking for an order from the Constitutional Court docket, the nation’s highest courtroom, that may “impose a time period of imprisonment on Mr. Zuma.”
Justice Zondo’s transfer catapulted the simmering theme of corruption throughout Mr. Zuma’s time period, which lasted from 2009 to 2018, right into a tense showdown over the accountability of the previous president. His successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, has promised to purge the governing African Nationwide Congress of endemic issues of bribery and graft which have severely broken its credibility in South Africa, one of many continent’s most essential financial powerhouses.
Mr. Zuma, 78, had been set to look earlier than the inquiry panel, the Fee on State Seize, beginning Monday for every week of testimony about his function within the corruption. The previous president despatched a letter from his lawyer as an alternative, arguing that he was not legally sure to look.
It was Mr. Zuma who instituted the inquiry in 2018 after a report detailing the extent of corruption in state-owned corporations and authorities departments throughout his administration. In its far-reaching mandate, the fee has interrogated greater than 250 witnesses.
Mr. Zuma is the primary to refuse, demanding that Justice Zondo recuse himself. Mr. Zuma has accused the justice of harboring a private vendetta in opposition to him and has pointed to a distant household relation. In uncharacteristic frustration, Justice Zondo rejected these claims.
“I’ve simply accomplished 24 years of service on the bench as a decide and plenty of litigants have come and gone and have appeared earlier than me, actually hundreds in trials, movement courtroom and appeals and solely Mr. Zuma, out of all of those, has requested me to recuse myself,” he stated.
It was not instantly clear when the Constitutional Court docket would determine on Mr. Zondo’s request that Mr. Zuma be positioned behind bars. Mr. Zuma, who has denied any wrongdoing, retains appreciable assist inside the nation, and the prospect that he may very well be arrested and imprisoned raised the chance of protests by his sympathizers.
Ought to the Constitutional Court docket discover Mr. Zuma’s habits doesn’t warrant punishment, it might encourage different witnesses to defy the corruption inquiry and undermine its function.
Mr. Ramaphosa, previously Mr. Zuma’s deputy, gained the A.N.C. management in 2017 after a bruising inside battle. Quickly afterward, he compelled Mr. Zuma to step down as president, a humiliating defeat that Mr. Zuma has not forgiven.
Mr. Ramaphosa’s vow to root out corruption and patronage inside the A.N.C. has confronted sturdy resistance from a rival faction inside the occasion. The A.N.C. has dominated South African politics because the finish of the apartheid period.