JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party has sent some of its top leaders to defuse rising tensions over the pending arrest of former President Jacob Zuma.
Earlier this week, Zuma was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment by the Constitutional Court for contempt of court. He has until Sunday to hand himself over to authorities, after which the police are ordered to arrest him.
Hundreds of Zuma’s staunchest supporters have gathered outside his home in KwaZulu-Natal province, vowing to resist any police attempts to take him into custody.
But many other ANC supporters and ordinary South Africans have welcomed the ruling against Zuma, saying his arrest is necessary to tackle the country’s rampant corruption.
The ANC’s National Executive Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body, postponed its scheduled meeting this weekend so that its leaders could try to resolve the potentially violent standoff at Zuma’s sprawling estate, Nkandla.
The ANC leaders would engage with Zuma and others to “give clear and principled leadership to ensure the maintenance of the rule of law and to avoid any violence, injury, or loss of life,” ANC spokesman Pule Mabe said Friday.
Zuma has denounced the ruling by South Africa’s highest court which sentenced him to a prison term and did not say if he will comply. His son and brother have said they will fight “to the death” to resist any attempts to arrest him.
Zuma said Friday that he will make an address about his pending imprisonment over the weekend.
The growing numbers of Zuma’s supporters camped out at the entrance to his compound are in defiance of the country’s COVID-19 regulations which prohibit all gatherings except funerals. The hundreds at Zuma’s home are expected to increase over the weekend. Police have not enforced the regulations outside Zuma’s home raising concerns that it may become a super-spreader event.