South Africa - Jacob Zuma Declines to Show Up for Graft Trial

15 February 2021

The former president had been called on to testify at an inquiry into corruption during his time in office. Zuma could now face jail time for failing to show up.

South Africa's former president Jacob Zuma did not appear on Monday at a judicial panel probing charges of corruption.

The embattled Zuma has refused to honor previous summons from the inquiry, but this latest snub could lead to him being found in contempt of court.

What happened?

The inquiry called on the 78-year-old to testify and present evidence after South Africa's top court ordered him to appear.

Zuma's lawyers sent the inquiry a letter confirming hthat e would not attend the proceedings between Monday and Friday.

In the letter, the lawyers described Zuma's summons as "irregular," but did not further clarify why he wouldn't appear.

In January, the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma was obliged to appear before the panel, but that he had the right to remain silent.

What consequences could he face?

Following his no-show, Zuma could face jail time.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who leads the inquiry, said the panel would ask the top court if Zuma's actions amounted to contempt of court.

"The commission will approach the Constitutional Court and ask it to impose a term of imprisonment on Mr. Zuma if it finds that he is guilty of contempt of court," Zondo said.

What is the corruption inquiry?

After nine years in office, Zuma was forced to resign in 2018 over a slew of corruption scandals involving a powerful business family, the Guptas.

Zuma is accused of allowing several members of the family to influence policies and grant them contracts with state companies.

The commission looking into graft allegations was set up by Zuma himself before he was ousted. He testified once, in July 2019, but has since walked out of proceedings.

Zuma has been implicated in evidence from about 40 witnesses. He has denied any wrongdoing.

(AFP, Reuters)

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