Former president Jacob Zuma was defiant to the end last night, choosing to take control of the manner of his incarceration and not suffer the spectre of being arrested and taken into custody in front of a watching media and South African public.
Just before midnight on Wednesday a convoy of heavily armed police, in double cabs, panel vans and armoured Nyalas, started slowly approaching Zuma’s home in Nkandla.
When they became visible to those outside the home, Zuma’s VIP convoy from the South African Presidential Protection Services lined up near the gate to speed out of the gigantic rural home.
However, their hasty exit was delayed when they found that Zuma’s supporters, led by his son, Edward, had blocked the gates with their vehicles and had formed a shield. A VIP protector shouted at them to open the way and they did.
Instead of going through Eshowe where the police battalion in about 50 vehicles was approaching, the VIP convoy took a different direction heading to Kranskop.
It later transpired, as confirmed by the Jacob Zuma Foundation, that Zuma had surrendered to the police, away from television cameras and media and was later transferred, some 150 kilometres away Nkandla.
Police spokesperson Lirandzu Themba confirmed in a statement that Zuma was in police custody, in compliance with the Constitutional Court judgment.
The Department of Correctional Services said in a separate statement that Zuma was admitted to Estcourt Correctional Centre.
DCS spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo said: “The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) can confirm that Mr Jacob
Gedleyihlekisa Zuma has been admitted to start serving a 15 months sentence at Estcourt Correctional Centre, KwaZulu-Natal.
“Mr Zuma will be taken through all the admission processes as per DCS regulations. Other relevant prescripts pertaining to admitting and orientating newly incarcerated persons will also be followed and executed.
“Details about the appropriate classification, prerogatives and incarceration conditions can only be determined at the completion of the assessment process to be undertaken by relevant authorities within the employ of DCS.
“Keeping inmates in a safe and secure custody remains cardinal to Correctional Services and we remain committed to this cause,” Nxumalo said.
Zuma’s instant jailing drew mixed feelings from a deeply divided South African society. Zuma’s longtime supporters lamented the jailing while others celebrated it as a victory for the rule of law.
Ace Magashule, a long time Zuma supporter who had accompanied him to his numerous court cases, said on social media that Zuma should remain strong and that the worst shall be over soon.
“Be strong now because things will get better. It might be stormy now, but it can’t rain forever,” he tweeted.
Taking to Facebook shortly after Zuma surrendered, former eThekwini mayor, Zandile Gumede said the jailing marked a dark hour for South Africa.
“The darkest night is just before the light, be strong, be brave together we will rise,” she wrote.
Gumede was not the only one to sympathise with Zuma as many others, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal from where Zuma hails and still enjoy massive political support, threatened to shun the ANC at the polls, saying the party did nothing to shield Zuma from being arrested.
Mmusi Maimane, the former leader of the Democratic Alliance and who now leads his own party, One Movement SA, said the jailing of Zuma was a constitutional victory.
“However difficult this is. My sympathies lie with citizens who tonight are without jobs, healthcare, education due to the unabated corruption that the ANC advanced through Jacob Zuma. SA must rise & uphold its constitution. This too shall pass, we must have constitutional future!”
Edward Zuma, who had previously promised a “bloodbath” when the police came to arrest his father, had not said anything about the matter on Thursday morning.