South Africa’s top court has ruled that former President Jacob Zuma had failed in his bid to have his 15-month jail sentence for failing to attend a corruption inquiry overturned.
The sentence was handed down in June after Zuma failed to testify at an inquiry probing corruption during his nine-year rule, seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law, particularly against powerful politicians.
Zuma, recuperating in hospital after undergoing surgery for an undisclosed illness, asked the court in July to revoke its sentence for contempt arguing it was excessive, and that jail would endanger his health and life. In a majority decision on Friday, the Constitutional Court rejected his arguments.
“The application for rescission is dismissed,” Justice Sisi Khampepe said as she read the majority decision, which included an order for Zuma to pay costs.
It was the latest legal setback for the 79-year-old anti-apartheid veteran from the ruling African National Congress, whose presidency between 2009 and 2018 was marred by widespread allegations of corruption and malfeasance. He denies wrongdoing.
“Obviously the foundation is disappointed with this judgement,” Mzwanele Manyi, spokesman for the JG Zuma Foundation, said in response.
Zuma’s jailing on July 7, after handing himself over to police at the last minute, led to violent riots, looting and vandalism in South Africa, killing more than 300 people and costing businesses billions of South African rand.
A Smart Voting app devised by the jailed Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been removed from Apple and Google stores on the day Russians start voting in parliamentary elections.
The Russian authorities had threatened to fine the two companies if they refused to drop the app, which told users who could unseat ruling party candidates. Parliamentary and local elections began on Friday and will last three days.
President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party is expected to win. Although a total of 14 parties are taking part in the vote, many candidates seen as anti-Putin are barred from running, including anyone associated with Navalny’s opposition movement. Some prominent Kremlin opponents have been forced to leave Russia.
Voters are electing 450 MPs for the Duma (parliament) in Moscow and a number of cities have introduced electronic voting. For the first time since 1993, election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will not be present due to “limitations” imposed by Russian authorities.
The Smart Voting app was not available for download on the Google and Apple stores in Russia on Friday. On the eve of the election, senior officials at the communications regulator threatened big fines for any companies that “systematically violate” its demands. IT companies had been warned that refusing to remove the app would be seen as illegal interference in the vote.
On Thursday night, Google Docs went down in some regions and the Smart Voting-bot on the Telegram platform came under a powerful attack aimed at taking it offline.
Google and Apple representatives met a Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament) commission on Thursday.
Navalny ally Ivan Zhdanov said the two companies were making a big mistake.
He linked to an Apple statement that explained the Smart Voting app had been removed because it was illegal in Russia and that Navalny’s FBK anti-corruption organisation had been designated as extremist.
Russia’s communications watchdog blocked the Smart Voting website earlier this month, and a Moscow court banned search engines from any mention of it.
Until now, relatively small fines have been imposed on non-Russian tech companies, including Twitter and Facebook, for not deleting content considered illegal by the Russian government. But the media watchdog has now threatened to target their turnover too.
Last March, the media watchdog said it was slowing down the speed of Twitter because it had failed to remove 3,000 posts relating to suicide, drugs and pornography.
The big social media companies were also threatened with fines if they did not delete posts urging young people to protest.