Former South African President Jacob Zuma attempted to have his detention overturned in court on Tuesday, but top police officials said they would wait until Zuma’s two-pronged legal challenge was resolved.
Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court last Tuesday after he refused to give evidence at a corruption investigation in February.
The court ordered police to arrest Zuma if he did not surrender by the end of Wednesday, inciting outrage among Zuma’s supporters and exposing profound differences within the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Zuma, on the other hand, petitioned the constitutional court to overturn his sentence and sought an interim from the high court to prohibit police from detaining him until the constitutional court hears his “rescission motion” on July 12.
Zuma’s lawyer urged the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday to approve the interdict, citing the hazardous circumstances around Zuma’s remote house in his legal arguments.
Hundreds of Zuma’s supporters gathered outside his home on Sunday, some of them armed, to hear him scream out at the judges who convicted him, comparing them to the white minority rulers he fought during the liberation war.
Later on Tuesday, a lawyer for the corruption investigation was scheduled to argue why the interdict should not be granted.
The investigation, led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, is looking into claims of high-level graft during Zuma’s time in power, which lasted from 2009 to 2018.
Zuma claims Zondo is prejudiced against him and denies any misconduct.
The state attorney acting for Police Minister Bheki Cele and police commissioner Khehla Sitole said in a letter to Zondo seen by Reuters that they would not arrest Zuma “waiting the finalization of the litigation” or instructions from Zondo.
Jessie Duarte, a senior ANC official, said the party was aware that Zuma was looking into every legal option to decrease or avoid his prison sentence.
“We believe the judiciary should be let to make its own judgments,” she said at a press conference, “but… we would hope that comrade Zuma’s court application is successful.”