Supporters of Jacob Zuma gathered to form a “human shield” outside the former South African president’s home to try to prevent his arrest.
Hundreds of followers stood outside his sprawling Nkandla compound, in rural KwaZulu-Natal province, after he announced that he would appeal the 15-month prison sentence and impending arrest.
On Tuesday, South Africa’s top court sentenced him to prison for defying a court order that he should testify before a commission investigating allegations of rampant corruption during his presidency between 2009 and 2018.
Several witnesses, including former Cabinet ministers and top executives of state-owned corporations, have testified of his wrongdoing, including allowing his associates, the Gupta family, to influence his Cabinet appointments and lucrative state contracts.
Zuma, 79, did not turn himself into authorities within five days, as the court ruling had ordered, and faced arrest by police. He has launched several court actions to avoid imprisonment including on Friday, when he filed an application with the Constitutional Court to rescind his sentence.
The court has agreed to hear his challenge on 12 July, suspending his sentence until then.
On Sunday, he told reporters there was “no need for me to go to jail today”, and claimed that “South Africa is fast sliding back to apartheid rule”.
“The fact that I was lambasted with a punitive jail sentence without trial should engender shock in all those who believe in freedom and the rule of law,” he said.
Hundreds of his supporters, including some who traveled more than 400 kilometres (250 miles), gathered outside his home vowing to prevent any attempts to arrest him. They have said they want the sentence to be dropped completely.
Gunshots were heard ringing out across Nklandla, as some of his supporters fired their weapons into the air, while others danced with the traditional weapons of the Zulu nation of spears and ox-hide shields.
One supporter, Lindokuhle Maphalala, told Agence France-Presse that if the police chief came to arrest Mr Zuma “he must start with us”.
Top officials of the ruling African National Congress party have gone to KwaZulu-Natal to try to reduce tensions and to encourage Zuma to comply with the court orders and avoid any violent confrontations.
On Sunday, his supporters remained defiant, clad in ANC regalia bearing Zuma’s portrait and T-shirts with the question in Zulu “Wenzeni uZuma?” (“What has Zuma done?”), singing songs praising him as a hero of the 1980s struggle against apartheid.
The supporters defied South Africa’s coronavirus regulations, in which wearing masks is compulsory and all social and political gatherings are prohibited.
Addressing his supporters, Zuma reiterated that he is not afraid of being jailed since he had been imprisoned before, being incarcerated by the apartheid regime for 10 years on Robben Island.“I am not afraid of going to jail. I went to prison fighting for freedom and rights and it looks like I will have to start from scratch and fight for freedom again,” said Zuma in the Zulu language.
“There is nobody who can come and take these rights away from me just because they think they understand the law. Those I fought for this freedom with would turn in their graves.”
Source: The Independent