South African ex-president Zuma in Russia for ‘health reasons’ – spokesman

Former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was ousted in 2018 due to corruption charges and currently faces prosecution, is reportedly in Moscow for medical treatment, according to his spokesperson. The announcement comes a day after a court ruling that reaffirmed Zuma’s obligation to serve a prison sentence.

In a statement, Zuma’s spokesperson, Mzwanele Manyi, explained that the 81-year-old former president traveled to Russia last week for health reasons and will return to South Africa once his treatment is complete. Manyi emphasized that the trip, which was taken on a commercial flight, was private but not secretive, responding to leaks in the local press about Zuma’s visit. It should be noted that just a week prior, Zuma was in Zimbabwe representing a group from Belarus at a conference on carbon credits.

On Thursday, South Africa’s highest court reiterated that Zuma must return to prison to complete a 15-month sentence for contempt of court, dismissing an appeal requesting leniency. However, the immediate implementation of the court’s decision remains uncertain, as the correctional services stated that they would study the judgment and seek legal advice before commenting on the matter.

Zuma was initially sentenced in June 2021 for his refusal to cooperate with a corruption investigation during his presidency (2009-2018). His imprisonment at the time sparked widespread riots that lasted for several days and resulted in the deaths of more than 350 people. After serving two months, Zuma was released on parole for medical reasons, though specific details about his health condition were not disclosed.

During his presidency, Zuma maintained close ties with Moscow, and South Africa’s relationship with Russia dates back to the apartheid era, with the Kremlin supporting the African National Congress (ANC) in its struggle against the racist regime. As an influential figure within the ANC, Zuma, whose middle name Gedleyihlekisa means “he who laughs while crushing his enemies” in Zulu, spent ten years alongside Nelson Mandela in the Robben Island penitentiary during their time in exile.

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