from TINTSWALO BALOYI in Johannesburg, South Africa
JOHANNESBURG – COLLEAGUES, comrades and critics expressed mixed feelings after former South Africa president, Jacob Zuma, began serving his 15-month jail sentence but were unanimous his incarceration was a victory for democracy and a momentous step in the fight against impunity.
Zuma, the divisive country’s third democratically –elected president, handed himself over to police late on Wednesday, eight days after the Constitutional Court sentenced him for contempt of court.
John Steenhuisen, leader of the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), was among the first officials to react to the arrest and jailing at Estcourt Correctional Centre in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal.
“Jacob Zuma’s incarceration is an important victory for the Rule of Law and sends a message to all those who have aligned themselves with the Zuma faction and who have become emboldened by his dismissive attitude, that the law cannot be mocked and challenged with impunity,” Steenhuisen.
His predecessor, Mmusi Maimane, stated, “However difficult this is…”
“My sympathies lie with citizens who tonight are without jobs, healthcare, education due to the unabated corruption that the ANC (African National Congress) advanced through Jacob Zuma.”
Maimane said South Africa must “rise” and uphold its constitution.
“This too shall pass, we must have constitutional future,” the former DA leader said.
Zuma’s legal woes have deepened in recent months after he defied the Constitutional Court directive to appear before a commission probing allegations of corruption during his presidency.
He was head of state from 2009 to 2018.
Herman Mashaba, president of the ActionSA, said, “While today some celebrate because they don’t like Zuma, we must never lose sight of the fact that our fight is not against one man, it is a fight against greed and corruption in government.”
ANC described the jailing of Zuma as a difficult period in the movement.
It called on members to remain calm and respect the decision taken by Zuma to abide by the rulings of the court.
The party stated it “always restated its unequivocal commitment to and defence of the Constitution, in particular the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary, amongst the founding principles and values of the Republic of South Africa.”
Zuma’s incarceration will evidently worsen the divisions within the ruling party.
Carl Niehaus, staunch supporter of Zuma, and the former spokesperson of the party, was suspended from the party earlier on Wednesday.
He maintained his stance as Zuma handed himself over.
“This is heartbreaking. I am heartbroken and very angry. I will never forgive those who have allowed this to happen,” Niehaus said.
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) said the 79-year-old statesman would be taken through all the admission processes as per DCS regulations.
Zuma was at the time of publication placed in isolation in line with COVID-19 protocol.
Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Ronald Lamola, said the former president was “in high spirits” and “in a dignified environment” on his first morning in prison.
Nema Ramkhelawan-Bhana, the economist, opined the developments would not erode investor sentiment, as was feared in some quarters.
“SA’s institutional strength continues to hold it in good stead, with the independence of the judiciary reinforcing investors’ belief in this character trait,” she said.
– CAJ News