South Africa’s top court has jailed former president Jacob Zuma for "egregious" contempt of court after he refused to appear before a corruption investigation he himself set up.
Mr Zuma, 79, was told to turn himself in within five days or face arrest in a landmark victory for rule-of-law campaigners who accuse him of presiding over a culture of endemic corruption during his years as head of state.
Delivering the ruling at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Justice Sisi Khampepe said Mr Zuma was guilty of an "egregious affront on judicial integrity, the rule of law and the Constitution.”
"I am left with no option but to commit Mr Zuma to imprisonment, with the hope that doing so sends an unequivocal message… the rule of law and the administration of justice prevails," she said.
Judge Sisi Khampepe sentenced Jacob Zuma to 15 months in jail
Mr Zuma’s daughter Duduzile later tweeted that he would comply with the order to hand himself in. He is expected to serve his 15 month sentence in a prison at Empangeni, 72 miles from his KwaZulu Natal home.
A spokesman for Mr Zuma said: "We have received the judgement and we note that the judgement was not unanimous. We note that minority judges have said that this judegment is unconstitutional."
Mr Zuma, 79, ruled South Africa for nearly nine years before he was forced out by his own African National Congress party amid graft allegations in February 2018.
Shortly before he left office he bowed to pressure for an investigation into the allegations and appointed Raymond Zondo, a deputy chief justice, to lead an inquiry into “state capture.”
The commission has held televised sessions almost daily for the past three years, but Mr Zuma himself has testified only once, in July 2019.
He walked out days later, accusing the judge of bias, and refused several invitations to reappear, citing medical issues and the need to prepare for a separate corruption trial related to a controversial 1990s arms deal.
Judge Zondo asked the constitutional court to intervene after Mr Zuma finally presented himself again in November but left before he could be questioned.
Most of the allegations revolve around the relationship between Mr Zuma’s administration and three brothers from a wealthy Indian business family, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who won lucrative government contracts during his term in office.
South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority asked Interpol to circulate a red notice for the arrest of the three brothers earlier this month.
Mr Zuma has denied the allegations.
The former president is due to appear in court in KwaZulu Natal next month to face separate charges of corruption related to a controversial arms deal signed by Nelson Mandela’s government in 1999.
The move will also mark a symbolic victory for president Cyril Ramaphosa, who succeeded Mr Zuma as president in 2018.
Mr Ramaphosa has largely avoided involvement in on-going judicial proceedings, but the court’s ruling is likely to strengthen his hand versus a rival faction still loyal to Mr Zuma inside the ANC.