South Africa's highest court has agreed to hear former president Jacob Zuma's challenge against his 15-month jail term for failing to attend an inquiry into alleged corruption during his tenure, giving him a reprieve from turning himself over to the police on Sunday to serve the sentence.
The Constitutional Court sentenced Zuma to 15 months in jail on Tuesday after he repeatedly refused to appear at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
Zuma, 79, is accused of enabling the plunder of state coffers during his stay in office from 2009 to 2018. The court had given him time till Sunday to turn himself over to the police to serve his jail term.
The court said on Saturday that it will hear an application filed by Zuma on July 12 to have the ruling rescinded, effectively giving him a reprieve of one more week.
Zuma asked the court to rescind its ruling, citing his age, unspecified medical conditions and the upcoming third wave of COVID-19 pandemic as a threat to his life, according to sources.
"I am advised that before I walk through the prison doors to serve my sentence as the first direct prisoner of the Constitutional Court under our constitutional democracy, it will not be futile to make one last attempt to invite the Constitutional Court to relook its decision...," Independent Online, a news website, quoted Zuma's plea as saying.
The court's decision came amid rising tensions in the country as scores of African National Congress (ANC) military veterans and other supporters gathered outside Zuma's homestead in rural Nkandla in the past three days, with some of them threatening violence if he is taken to prison.
The ANC, which ousted Zuma three years ago amid widespread public outcry following allegations of his involvement in alleged corrupt activities, sent some of its most senior politicians to Zuma's home province of KwaZulu-Natal in an attempt to ease the tensions.
The former president had also repeatedly refused to appear before the Commission, where various witnesses have implicated him in corrupt activities, especially due to his alleged close relationship to the Gupta brothers -- Atul, Ajay and Rajesh.
The Gupta brothers are now wanted for looting South Africa's state and parastatal coffers of billions of rands.
Zuma has been named as a central figure in the allegations of corruption of over 50 billion rands involving the three Gupta brothers.
The Indian-origin Gupta family is believed to be in self-exile in Dubai. The South African government has initiated their extradition.