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South Africa’s jailed ex-president, Jacob Zuma, loses bid to overturn arrest

Former South African president Jacob Zuma lost a court bid on Friday to overturn his arrest for contempt, days after turning himself in for a 15-month jail term.

“The application is dismissed,” the presiding judge said

The constitutional court last week ordered Zuma jailed for refusing to give evidence at an inquiry into corruption during his nine years in office from 2009. Though he turned himself in on Wednesday, Zuma has challenged his sentence.

The constitutional court would hear his challenge, which pivots partly on his allegedly frail state of health and risk of catching COVID-19, in a separate case on Monday, but Friday’s high court judgment means he must stay in jail until that hearing is concluded.

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“Mr Zuma’s concerns about his health are not supported by any evidence,” the Pietermaritzburg high court judge said.

The ruling came less than an hour after the high court in Johannesburg dismissed an application by the secretary general of the African National Congress (ANC), Ace Magashule, to have his suspension over corruption charges in a separate case set aside.

Both politicians’ proceedings are regarded as a test of South Africa’s ability to enforce the law fairly – even against powerful politicians 27 years after the ANC ousted South Africa’s white minority rulers to usher in democracy.

For Zuma, the jail order has also been viewed as the most dramatic chapter yet in his journey from a respected anti-apartheid activist to a politician tainted by charges of sleaze and corruption, all of which he denies.

As a member of the ANC when it was a liberation movement, Zuma was jailed by South Africa’s white minority rulers for his efforts to establish a state that would treat citizens equally.

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