Ex South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma has urged a regional court to block his arrest as he pursues legal challenges against a prison sentence.
The development came on Tuesday, a week after the constitutional court sentenced Zuma to a 15-month jail term for contempt of court after he defied an order to give evidence at a corruption inquiry in February.
The court instructed police to arrest Zuma by the end of Wednesday if he did not hand himself in, sparking an angry reaction from Zuma’s supporters and laying bare deep divisions in the governing African National Congress (ANC) party.
But late last week Zuma asked the constitutional court to cancel its sentence and approached the high court for an interdict to prevent police from arresting him until the constitutional court hears his “rescission application” on July 12.
In legal arguments before the Pietermaritzburg High Court, Zuma’s lawyer on Tuesday urged it to grant the interdict, taking into account the volatile situation around Zuma’s rural home.
Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from Pietermaritzburg, said according to legal experts Zuma has a “very low prospect of succeeding” given that the constitutional court is the highest court in the land.
“There isn’t any other court above it and that’s why jurisdiction is now being argued in the Pietermartizburg court. We don’t know exactly when the court will rule but it’s after that the people will have a clearer indication of whether the former president will in fact be arrested.”
Hundreds of Zuma’s followers, some of them armed, gathered outside Zuma’s home on Sunday to hear him lash out against the judges who sentenced him and compare them with the white minority apartheid rulers he fought during the liberation struggle.
Lawyers for the corruption inquiry were due to argue why the interdict should not be granted later on Tuesday.
The inquiry chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is examining allegations of high-level graft during Zuma’s period in power from 2009 to 2018.
Zuma denies wrongdoing and says Zondo is biased against him.
In a letter sent to Zondo and seen by Reuters news agency, the state attorney acting for Police Minister Bheki Cele and police commissioner Khehla Sitole said they would hold back from arresting Zuma “pending the finalisation of the litigation” or directions from Zondo.
The ANC on Tuesday condemned the actions of Zuma’s supporters and urged support for the rule of law.
The ANC’s National Executive Committee said it deplored the “counter-revolutionary calls for violence and even civil war, parading of armed groups and flagrant display of weapons” outside Zuma’s home.
By Tuesday the crowds supporting Zuma had dispersed and just a few of his supporters stood at the entrance to his home
Senior ANC official Jessie Duarte said the party was aware Zuma was exploring every legal avenue to reduce or escape his prison sentence.
“We believe the judiciary must be left to make its own decisions, [but] … we would hope that comrade Zuma’s court application will be successful,” she told a news conference.SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES