South Africa's top court stands by order to jail Jacob Zuma

Former South African President Jacob Zuma.

Photo credit: Emmanuel Croset | AFP

South Africa's highest court on Friday stood by its order to imprison Jacob Zuma, accusing the former president of "litigious skullduggery" in a scathing ruling that accused him of undermining the courts.

The case however does not affect Zuma's release on medical parole earlier this month, which sparked an uproar amid allegations of irregularities in the parole process.

His jailing in July sparked the worst outbreak of political violence since the end of apartheid, as his supporters staged violent protests that devolved into widespread looting of malls and warehouses.

The 79-year-old had asked the Constitutional Court to rescind its decision to sentence him to 15 months in prison for refusing to answer questions in a corruption investigation.

"The application for recision is dismissed," said Justice Sisi Khampepe.

Zuma's lawyers had argued that the decision should be rescinded because he had not attended the proceedings.

"The majority emphatically reject any suggestion that litigants can be allowed to butcher of their own will a judicial process which in all respects has been carried out with the utmost degree of regularity, only to later plead the absent victim," Khampepe said.

The ruling accused Zuma of "litigious skullduggery" in seeking to set aside his prison sentence.

This case did not consider Zuma's release on medical parole on September 6.

Zuma, who retains pockets of support with the ruling African National Congress, was president from 2009 to 2018.

He took office after being acquitted of raping a friend's adult daughter and his administration was plagued by multiple scandals.

His time in office became known as "state capture" for allegedly giving out political favours and mis-spending, which are the focus of a three-year public inquiry.

Zuma's refusal to appear before the inquiry is what led the Constitutional Court to order his 15-month imprisonment. Because the court's orders cannot be appealed, Zuma sought to have it "rescinded."

Zuma's claims "are devoid of merit," the judge said.