Zuma sentenced to jail time, what happens next? We ask an expert

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Former president Jacob Zuma has been sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment.
Former president Jacob Zuma has been sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment.
Gallo Images/Beeld/Deaan Vivier
  • Former president Jacob Zuma has been sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for being in contempt of court.
  • He has five days to hand himself over to police to start serving his sentence.
  • Failure to do so, may result in his arrest.

Former president Jacob Zuma has five days in which to present himself to police to start serving his prison sentence - failure to do so could result in his arrest.

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court found Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months' imprisonment.

What happens next

The apex court ordered that Zuma submits himself to either the Nkandla or Johannesburg Central police stations within five calendar days of the judgment being handed down.

From there, the station commander at the police station that he goes to, would have to ensure that Zuma was delivered to a correctional centre to start serving his sentence.

READ | Zuma's daughter says he will report to Nkandla police as opposition parties welcome sentence

Zuma would have to hand himself over before Monday, 5 July.

Crime expert, Dr Guy Lamb, told News24 that once Zuma handed himself over, he would effectively be arrested and then processed before being transferred to prison.

Lamb added that it was unlikely that Zuma would be treated the same as other people who handed themselves over to serve a prison sentence.

He said Zuma would likely be treated with a lot of respect and not put in a communal holding cell, saying:

High profile individuals have a bit more of a comfortable experience.

Lamb also said that Zuma's transfer to prison would not be standard and that there would certainly be an increase in security.

However, all these considerations would be up to the station commander.

If Zuma did not hand himself over to a police station, the court had ordered that the Minister of Police and national police commissioner must take all the necessary and legally permissible steps to ensure that he was delivered to a prison to start serving the sentence.

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As per the apex court, the minister and commissioner would have to act within three days after the deadline for Zuma to hand himself over, has passed.

If Zuma did not present himself to a police station, he may be arrested, which would be the norm for people who failed to comply with a court's directive to hand themselves over and start serving a prison sentence.

Lamb said that if Zuma did not hand himself over, police would have to effect an arrest, but would most likely do an assessment first, to ensure that the arrest was done in the least provocative way.


Police would also have to consider remarks made by MKMVA and loyal Zuma supporters that they would not allow him to go to prison. If these supporters made good on their promises, a hostile situation may emerge.

If Zuma did hand himself over, then the national police commissioner would most likely instruct the provincial commissioner to take the necessary action.

The national intervention unit could also be called in to effect the arrest.

Whether the minister will go or not is still unclear, but he has no responsibility to oversee the arrest.

During a National Coronavirus Command Council briefing on Tuesday, Minister of Police,Bheki Cele said law enforcement agencies would be instructed to act in the event that Zuma did not comply with the order.

News24 had reported that Zuma's daughter, Duduzile Zuma, indicated that her father would comply with the 15-month jail term and hand himself over at the Nkandla police station in KwaZulu-Natal.

The judgment followed Zuma's failure to appear before the State Capture Inquiry and answer questions regarding state capture during his time in office, despite an apex court order that he does so.

In December 2020, the commission approached the highest court in the country on an urgent basis for an order to compel Zuma to comply with the commission.

In January this year, the Constitutional Court handed down judgment ordering Zuma to attend the commission and give testimony.

ROLLING COVERAGE | Thuli Madonsela 'sad for Zuma' but says he left the ConCourt with no options

In February, Zuma defied the court order by snubbing the commission. At the time, he released a statement saying he would not obey the order.

In handing down the majority judgment on Tuesday, Acting Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe found that Zuma was guilty of being in contempt of court.

Khampepe said:

The majority finds itself faced with little choice but to send a resounding message that this kind of recalcitrance and defiance is unlawful and will be punished.

The judgment found that an unsuspended committal order was the only appropriate sanction.

The minority judgment agreed that Zuma was guilty of contempt of court but did not agree with the sentence imposed.

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