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Former South African President Jacob Zuma sits in the dock after recess in his corruption trial in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on May 26, 2021. Phill Magakoe/Pool via Reuters

South Africa's Constitutional Court has sentenced former President Jacob Zuma to fifteen months in prison for defying a court order to appear before the Zondo Commission, which is investigating charges of corruption during Zuma’s 2009-2018 presidency. As the court is the highest in the land, Zuma cannot appeal. Nine justices ruled.

All agreed that Zuma was guilty; seven favoured imprisonment, while two favoured a suspended sentence. This is the first time a former chief of state in South Africa has been sentenced to prison. Zuma has five days to turn himself in to the authorities in Johannesburg or Nkandla, his home in KwaZulu-Natal. If he fails to do so, the court has ordered the commissioner of police to arrest him within three days.

Holding accountable a former chief of state through a domestic legal and judicial process in Africa appears to be without precedent. Some chiefs of state have been toppled through coups; others removed from office have been tried by international tribunals.

In Zuma's case, he was tried and convicted under South African law and by the South African judicial system through an utterly transparent process. Zuma's conviction underscores that South Africa has the continent's strongest culture of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary, both of which underpin a strong democratic trajectory.

 

Zuma retains political support, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. There could be some concern that his supporters might demonstrate or even try to block his arrest. However, South Africa is under a strict lockdown because of the resurgence of COVID-19, making it difficult to assemble a mob.

In 2016, the Public Protector—an office established by the constitution to investigate and remedy improper behaviour by government officials—recommended the establishment of a commission to consider allegations of corruption by the Zuma presidency. With no choice, Zuma established the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Zuma has persistently stonewalled the work of the commission and refused to appear before it, even when the court ordered him to do so. That is the immediate background to the most recent ruling.

President Cyril Ramaphosa defeated Zuma for the leadership of the governing African National Congress and subsequently for the presidency of South Africa in part because Zuma and his administration were seen as corrupt. But, Zuma, a populist in style, has retained significant support in the country and the party, especially among the poor and marginalized and among his fellow Zulus, the largest ethnic group in the country.

Zuma and his supporters have sought to thwart Ramaphosa's efforts at state reform. Zuma's conviction and jailing by an independent judiciary is likely to strengthen Ramaphosa's hand as he goes about implementing reforms.

The bottom line, however, is that Zuma's conviction and jailing provides a powerful example to other African states of holding their rulers to account.

This publication is part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Project on the Future of Democracy. by John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations

The British Royal Navy warship HMS Defender approaches the Black Sea port of Batumi, Georgia on June 26, 2021. (Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia/Handout / Reuters)

 

BBC, which reported the incident, says the documents found in Kent were from Britain's defence ministry and contain details about a British warship and Russia's potential reaction to its passage through the Black Sea.

Classified documents from Britain's defence ministry containing details about a British warship and Russia's potential reaction to its passage through the Black Sea have been found at a bus stop in southern England.

The BBC reported on Sunday that the documents, almost 50 pages in all, were found "in a soggy heap behind a bus stop in Kent early on Tuesday morning" by a member of the public, who wanted to remain anonymous. 

The document dump comes after Russia claimed on Wednesday that it dropped bombs in the path of the British warship Defender off the coast of the Crimea peninsula.

The Ministry of Defence said it had been informed last week of "an incident in which sensitive defence papers were recovered by a member of the public".

"The department takes the security of information extremely seriously and an investigation has been launched. The employee concerned reported the loss at the time. It would be inappropriate to comment further," a spokesperson said.

The BBC reported that the documents, which included emails and PowerPoint presentations, related to the HMS Defender, which sailed through waters off the Crimean peninsula which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014 last week.

Russian aggression expected

Russia said on Wednesday it had fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of the ship to chase it out of what the Kremlin says are its territorial waters but which Britain and most of the world say belong to Ukraine.

It later summoned the British ambassador in Moscow for a formal diplomatic scolding over what it described as a provocation.

Britain rejected Russia's account of the incident. 

It said it believed any shots fired were a pre-announced Russian "gunnery exercise", and that no bombs had been dropped.

It confirmed the destroyer had sailed through what it said were Ukrainian waters, describing its path as "innocent passage" in accordance with international law of the sea.

The BBC said the documents suggested the ship's mission was conducted in the expectation that Russia might respond aggressively.

"What do we understand about the possible 'welcome party'…?" asked an official at Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ), the UK's tri-service headquarters at Northwood, according to the BBC. Source: TRT

Photo James Odong

 

The captain of Uganda’s national sevens team last week disappeared from his hotel in Monaco where the team was isolated after some members tested positive for coronavirus ahead of the repechage qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics.

His disappearance was discovered when the team were due to be retested at the end of their isolation periods, the Uganda Rugby Union reported.

“It has been brought to the attention of the Uganda Rugby Union Executive Committee that one of the players, James Odong, has been missing from the hotel room where they had been placed for isolation as a measure to control the spread of COVID-19,” the Uganda Rugby Union said on June 25.

“James travelled on June 16 and on arrival they had to undergo a compulsory isolation in the designated tournament hotel.

“On completion of self-isolation on June 19, they were to undergo another COVID-19 test at a venue outside the hotel.

“James Odong did not turn up for the test and when the team members returned to the hotel, he was not in his room or hotel complex.

“The incident was brought to the attention of the team manager who immediately informed the tournament organisers.
“James is in possession of all his valid travel documents with a valid visa, which expires on June 26.

“Uganda Rugby Union takes discipline very seriously and this matter is being dealt with accordingly.

“We have handed over the matter to the relevant security agencies in Monaco and will cooperate with them, the tournament organiser, the French Embassy, National Council of Sports and any other authority to assist with the conclusion of this matter.”
Two of Uganda’s athletes arriving for the Tokyo Olympics have tested positive in Japan.

The East African country is grappling with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen the country registering over 1,000 cases daily, according to several newswire services, including Xinhua. The country is currently under a partial lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.

Over the last few years there have been numerous cases of Ugandan athletes absconding when playing abroad. - Ian Brodie, Monaco Daily News

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