South Africa: ICJ welcomes arrest of former President Jacob Zuma as victory of rule of law

The ruling by a South African High Court rejecting former President Zuma’s arguments that he should not be incarcerated for contempt of court is a victory for the rule of law, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today.

The ICJ called on Zuma’s supporters to desist from violence and for South African Police Services to avoid the use of excessive force in managing crowds.

 “The High Court’s judgment and the peaceful arrest of former President Zuma shows that no one is above the law and demonstrates South Africa’s commitment to the principle enshrined in the Constitution that everyone is equal before the law,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, ICJ’s Africa director.

On 29 June, the South African Constitutional Court found former President Zuma to be in contempt of court for refusing to appear at corruption hearings before the State Capture Commission, and ordered his arrest. Zuma was ordered to serve a sentence of 15 months. On 7 July, South African Police Services arrested Zuma and he has been serving his sentence in prison ever since.

Zuma’s last chance at evading his prison sentence is through an application to the Constitutional Court that will be heard on 12 July. The rescission application filed will succeed only if it is based on a clear error, ambiguity or mistake.

“It appears almost certain that Zuma will have to serve his sentence, because it is doubtful the rescission application will be successful, as Zuma’s lawyers have used what is an otherwise narrow technical process of amendment of an order as a backdoor for an appeal. Even if his last-ditch efforts fail Zuma may avoid serving his entire sentence due to early release on good behavior, considering his advanced age, or a presidential pardon,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh.

Zuma’s family and political supporters have called for gatherings and ‘shutting down’ of roads, factories, and other amenities in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

“We call on supporters of former President Zuma to desist from engaging in violence and criminal activity during any protest action, and to respect the Covid-19 lockdown regulations; we also remind South African Police Services of its duty to avoid excessive use of force in controlling the crowds,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh.



Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, Director Africa Programme,, +27 84 514 8039

Tanveer Jeewa, Legal and Communications Officer,


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