As Zuma prepares to fight his 15-month sentence, Cele puts the brakes on his arrest

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Unmasked: Former president Jacob Zuma addresses his supporters in front of his Nkandla compound on Sunday.
Unmasked: Former president Jacob Zuma addresses his supporters in front of his Nkandla compound on Sunday.

Police Minister Bheki Cele and national police commissioner Khehla Sitole have told acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that they will not act on orders to arrest former president Jacob Zuma – until his legal challenge to his 15-month jail term for contempt is finalised.

Last week, the Constitutional Court ordered Cele and Sitole to ensure that Zuma was arrested and committed to jail by Wednesday, should he not hand himself over by Sunday.

But Zuma is heading to the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday to have the execution of that order stayed, pending his application for the rescission of the Constitutional Court's contempt ruling. He was found guilty of contempt for defying an order to appear before the State Capture Inquiry and answer non-incriminating questions.

But, while acknowledging that Zuma's litigation steps do not amount to appeal processes and would therefore not suspend the orders issued against him, Cele and Sitole have now told Zondo that they will hold off on acting on the Constitutional Court's orders – until Zuma's cases are finalised.

READ | Zondo Commission says Zuma's High Court bid to block his arrest is doomed: Here are the 4 reasons why

"In view of the unique situation presented by the developments and the legal matrix involved, our clients will, out of respect [for] the unfolding litigation processes, hold further actions they are expected to take in terms of the honourable court's orders in abeyance, pending the finalisation of the litigation, alternatively, pending any directions the honourable acting Chief Justice may possibly issue regarding the conduct of the litigation and any other related matter relevant to the litigation," the State Attorney's office told Zondo.

In other words, unless they are expressly directed to arrest Zuma by the Constitutional Court, Cele and Sitole will not act on the court's orders.

Zuma's rescission application is due to be heard by the Constitutional Court on Monday. In it, he denies that he is guilty of contempt and insists that jailing him for 15 months amounts to "detention without trial". He also insists that, because of his age and health condition, sending him to jail would be a "death sentence".

This is a developing story.

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