Former South African President Jacob Zuma, deposed in 2018 for corruption and prosecuted in several cases, is currently in Moscow for medical treatment, his spokesperson said on Friday, the day after a court decision reaffirming that he should be in jail.
Mr. Zuma, 81, "went to Russia last week for health reasons and he will return to the country when his doctors have completed his treatment," Mzwanele Manyi said in a statement.
This trip, aboard a commercial flight, "is private, but not secret" , defends the spokesperson, in the wake of leaks in the local press on this trip by Mr. Zuma, who was still on the 7 July in Zimbabwe , where he represented a group from Belarus at a conference on carbon credits.
On Thursday, South Africa's highest court reiterated that Mr Zuma should return to prison to finish serving a 15-month sentence for contempt, rejecting an appeal asking that he be spared.
This decision should not have immediate effect: the penitentiary services affirmed that they were going to study this judgment and seek a legal opinion before expressing themselves on this file.
Mr. Zuma was sentenced in June 2021 for stubbornly refusing to respond to a commission investigating corruption under his presidency (2009-2018). His imprisonment a few days later sparked several days of riots, killing more than 350 people.
He had been released on parole after two months for medical reasons, without further details on his state of health.
Mr. Zuma, when he was president, had close ties with Moscow. More generally, relations between South Africa and Russia date back to the apartheid era, with the Kremlin providing support to the ANC in the fight against the racist regime.
Mr. Zuma, feared intelligence chief at the time of the ANC in exile, whose middle name Gedleyihlekisa means in Zulu "he who laughs while crushing his enemies", spent ten years in Robben Island penitentiary alongside Nelson Mandela.