Lungani Zungu

The nation and world watched on Wednesday as Jacob Zuma, once the most powerful man in South Africa who led the country for nine years and the ANC, for ten years, went to jail.

Zuma finally caved in to legal pressure and officially handed himself over at Estcourt correctional services to begin his 15-month jail sentence – but not without a fight.

He made his way to the correctional services just over 40 minutes before the midnight deadline.

His ally Nkosentsha Shezi took to social media to share the last moments with Zuma before going to jail.

“Never have I seen a man so brave, so strong and firm. I shed my tear (and) he laughed and consoled us.” 

Zuma handed himself in when yet another dubious bid to avoid prison on Wednesday failed.

This was after his lawyer Mongeni Ntanga wrote to acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, asking for more time before being jailed on Wednesday. 

He pleaded for Zondo to delay his arrest until Friday or Monday.

Zuma’s supporters were nowhere near his Nkandla home, where they had flocked to in large numbers on Sunday amid his imminent arrest.

A handful of people were seen outside the gate of his Nkandla home, while a few others were stationed outside the Westville prison in Durban, some 230 kilometres from his homestead. 

Zuma, who had been at odds with the judiciary, was sentenced by the Constitutional Court to 15 months in prison for defying a court order telling him to go to the state capture commission of inquiry. 

The Constitutional Court instructed Zuma to hand himself over to the police by Sunday.

The highest court also ordered Police Minister Bheki Cele and police national commissioner Khehla Sitole to arrest Zuma within three days after Sunday if he did not hand himself over.

They, too, would have been charged with contempt of court if they hadn’t arrested Zuma on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Zuma went to the Pietermaritzburg high court in what has been described as a futile bid to block his arrest.

Judge Bhekisisa Mnguni reserved his judgement for Friday.

On Monday, the Constitutional Court will hear Zuma’s application to have his sentence set aside.

For now, for a man who once controlled the levers of power, this is a dramatic fall from grace. 

At his peak, Zuma commanded massive support inside the ANC which saw him rise to the powerful party president, dislodging the respected Thabo Mbeki in 2007.

But most of his supporters seem to have vanished as he finds himself behind bars.

In a statement, the JG Zuma Foundation said: “Dear South Africans and the World.

Please be advised that 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.”