Jacob Zuma is also the first president of South Africa ever to be jailed.
With the clock ticking and a nation on edge, a convoy of cars emerged from Nkandla on Wednesday night, finally escorting former president Jacob Zuma to jail.
After days of protests and threats of violence from his supporters, Zuma’s moment of believing came minutes before the midnight deadline for police to arrest him
At 11.15pm at least six vehicles from the presidential motorcade sped off the gates of his homestead, past a handful of supporters to a correctional services facility in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Constitutional Court convicted and sentenced him to 15 months in prison for contempt last week.
Earlier in the day, as police vehicles were seen pacing the high way leading up Zuma’s home, Zuma’s son Edward, brandishing a stick, was joined by a handful of supporters who were singing and dancing outside the gates
He repeatedly told the media no-one would arrest his father. “That cell they have reserved for him, they might as well give it to another prisoner,” he told reporters.
At about 10.30pm an ambulance arrived at Zuma’s home and it was chased away by his supporters who believed it may have been a strategy by police to gain entry into the property. It was later allowed through.
When Zuma’s motorcade finally left the property, his supporters appeared stunned while Edward refused to talk to the media. Meanwhile, prison authorities were gearing for receive their most prominent inmate.
In a letter to the Constitutional Court last night, Zuma’s lawyer Mongezi Ntanga said they understood the police were planning to arrest him by midnight and that they were requesting that be suspended until the matters before court were finalised
Ntanga asked the ConCourt to suspend the order for his arrest until the outcome of his interdict application to the Pietermaritzburg high court as well as his rescission application to the apex court.
The high court is on Friday scheduled to deliver its ruling on the interdict application, which was heard on Tuesday.
“There is prejudice on the life of our client in the event of the judgment of the high court ordering a suspension of the committal orders, alternatively the Constitutional Court rescinding its orders,” Ntanga wrote.
Ntanga’s letter followed one by the state attorney on behalf of police minister Bheki Cele in which Cele had asked the Constitutional Court whether indeed Zuma should be arrested before his court challenges were finalised.
The court did not respond to it, a sign Cele took to mean the order for Zuma’s arrest had to be implemented by midnight. Earlier in the day, as police vehicles were seen pacing the highway leading up to Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla.
In an interview earlier in the day, Zuma Foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi said the former president was at his homestead and had no plans of willingly submitting himself for arrest if the police came to fetch him as he did not understand himself to be due for jail.
“The position of president Zuma is that he is not expecting the police to do anything irrational and arresting him will be irrational. Why can they not wait a week for the rescission application? He is expecting that there will be maturity and that there will be no irrationality from the police in executing the order,” he said.
Manyi said it was a “wrong question” to ask if Zuma was concerned about those who threatened to block his arrest and who proclaimed preparedness to die in his defence.
Later, the foundation tweeted “Dear People of SA and the World. The Foundation is very concerned about unfolding developments and monitoring the situation very closely…”.
Meanwhile, ANC veteran Frank Chikane said failure to put Zuma behind bars would undermine the rule that all are equal before it. “There is no excuse for not arresting him. We have left it to the police now to do their job. If you are elected into a position and you use it to loot the state, then you are working outside the law and must go to jail, simple.”
Zuma’s other vocal and sturdy supporter – his daughter Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla posted this message on Twitter: “Just spoke to President Jacob Zuma en route and he is still in high spirits. He said that he hopes they still have his same overalls from Robben Island, and we laughed hard that at least he won’t struggle with Afrikaans this time round. We salute dad! Amandla!”