Former South African president Jacob Zuma turned himself over to police early Thursday to begin serving a 15-month prison term.
Just minutes before the midnight deadline for police to arrest him, Zuma left his Nkandla home in a convoy of vehicles. Zuma handed himself over to authorities to obey the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, that he should serve a prison term for contempt.
“President Zuma has decided to comply with the incarceration order. He is on his way to hand himself into a Correctional Services Facility in KZN (KwaZulu-Natal province),” said a tweet by the Zuma foundation.
Soon after South Africa’s police confirmed that Zuma was in their custody.
Zuma’s imprisonment comes after a week of rising tensions over his sentence.
Zuma, 79, was ordered to prison for contempt because he defied a court order for him to testify before a judicial commission investigating widespread allegations of corruption during his time as the country’s president, from 2009 to 2018.
The Constitutional Court ordered that if Zuma did not voluntarily hand himself over to the police then the police should arrest the country’s former president by the end of the day Wednesday.
In a last-minute plea to avoid going to prison, Zuma’s lawyers had written to the acting chief justice requesting that his arrest be suspended until Friday when a regional court is to rule on his application to postpone the arrest.
Zuma’s lawyers asked the acting chief justice to issue directives stopping the police from arresting him, claiming there would be a “prejudice to his life.”
The former president had also launched two court proceedings to avoid arrest after his sentence last week.
He applied to the Constitutional Court to rescind his sentence and that application will be heard on July 12.