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SA: Booze, travel, gatherings back as Ramaphosa eases lockdown restrictions

TimesLive

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday moved SA back to alert level 3, meaning that alcohol sales will be allowed, gatherings can take place and interprovincial travel for leisure is back.

The nationwide curfew stays in place, from 10pm to 4am.

Ramaphosa said that non-essential establishments — including restaurants, taverns, bars and fitness centres — can open, but must close by 9pm.

Gatherings have also been allowed, but are limited to a maximum of 50 people for indoor events and 100 for outdoor events.

The sale of alcohol for off-site consumption is allowed, from 10am to 6pm, from Monday to Thursday. On-site sales and consumptions are allowed “as per licence conditions”, but must end by 8pm.

SA had been on alert level 4 for four weeks, as a spike in cases — with Gauteng the epicentre — drove the country’s third wave.

Ramaphosa said: “The latest figures suggest that we have largely passed the peak of the third wave, though there are some areas in the country where we still need to be concerned because the rates of infections have not yet showed signs of decline.”

He said that while the number of infections in Gauteng were declining, there were concerns about increasing infections in the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape.

Just before he spoke, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that there were 9,718 new Covid-19 cases recorded in the past 24 hours. There were also 287 new Covid-19 related fatalities recorded in same period, taking the total death toll to date to 69,775.

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SA: 45 dead, 800 arrested as pro-Zuma protests spread

police south africa

BBC

At least 45 people have now died in the violence that has been engulfing parts of South Africa since the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma last week.

This includes 10 people killed in a stampede during looting on Monday night at a shopping centre in Soweto, the country’s biggest township.

Almost 800 people have been arrested in the unrest that began last Thursday and turned violent over the weekend.

The military has now been deployed to help the overstretched police.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called it some of the worst violence witnessed in South Africa since the 1990s, before the end of apartheid, with fires set, highways blocked and businesses looted in major cities and small towns in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.

Police Minister Bheki Cele told journalists on Tuesday that, if the looting continued, there was a risk areas could run out of basic food supplies.

However, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said there was not yet a need to declare a state of emergency over the violence.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said some 26 people had been killed in the province so far. In Gauteng the death toll is 19, including the 10 who died at the mall in Soweto.

The BBC’s Vumani Mkhize says several shopping centres in the township – once home to Nelson Mandela – have been completely ransacked with ATMs broken into, restaurants, bottle stores and clothing shops all left in tatters.

Soldiers, working with the police managed to catch a few rioters, but law enforcement remains heavily outnumbered, he says.

In KwaZulu-Natal – where livestock has also been stolen – the unrest continues with ambulances even coming under attack by rioters in some areas, South Africa’s TimesLive news site reports.

Officials have accused some groups of taking advantage of the anger over Zuma’s imprisonment to commit criminal acts, while others have said anger over unemployment and poverty are fuelling the chaos.

But Mr Cele warned that “no amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people gives the right to anyone to loot, vandalise and do as they please and break the law”.

He also revealed they were investigating 12 people for inciting violence.

There has been some concern over fake news online fuelling the unrest, while the governing African National Congress (ANC) had already revealed it was looking into tweets sent by Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla.

State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said officials were “busy sorting fact from fiction” after receiving information that former security agents linked to Zuma had instigated the violence.

Zuma was convicted of contempt of court last month after failing to attend an inquiry into corruption during his presidency.

The 79-year-old, who denies corruption, was given a 15-month prison sentence. He handed himself to police late on Wednesday.

He is hoping to get the sentence rescinded or reduced by the country’s constitutional Court. However, legal experts say his chances of success are slim.

The catalyst was the arrest last week of Zuma, with his supporters blockading major roads – the economic arteries of the nation – as they demanded the release of their political hero.

Low income levels and unemployment – standing at a record high of 32.6% among the workforce and even higher at 46.3% among young people – are seen as the ticking bombs that have exploded.

Many South Africans have been shaken by the riots that have swept through Zuma’s political heartland of KwaZulu-Natal and the economic hub of Gauteng.

And many feel that his successor as president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has failed to provide decisive leadership – either to calm anger over Zuma’s imprisonment or to reassure South Africans that they will be safe.

Mr Ramaphosa was accused of belatedly deploying troops – and only 2,500 of them compared with the 70,000 he deployed to enforce a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 last year.

But there is no agreement over the deployment – the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party has opposed it, saying the solution lay in “political intervention and engagement with our people”.

Many residents in affected areas have remained at home, and some have formed what local media call “defence squads” to protect their neighbourhoods and businesses as looting and burning continues.

There is no doubt that the unrest is the biggest security challenge that Mr Ramaphosa has faced since he became president in 2018 after ousting Zuma. It is bound to worsen the economic crisis, already hit by the pandemic, as many businesses, including shops, warehouses and factories, have been destroyed.

Video footage shows that even a blood bank was looted in the coastal city of Durban, as Mr Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday night.

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Ramaphosa deploys soldiers to quell pro-Zuma protests

Cyril Ramaphosa

BBC

South Africa is deploying the military to tackle riots that have broken out since the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma.

Shops were looted and buildings set on fire on Monday as Zuma challenged his sentence at a hearing in the top court.

At least six people have been killed and 200 arrested since the unrest began last week.

Zuma was convicted of contempt of court after failing to attend an inquiry into corruption during his presidency.

The 79-year-old, who denies corruption, handed himself in to police last week to begin his 15-month sentence.

He is hoping to get the sentence rescinded or reduced at the Constitutional Court hearing. However, legal experts say his chances of success are slim.

The case has sparked an unprecedented legal drama in South Africa, which has never seen a former president jailed before.

Footage on Monday showed a fire at a shopping centre in the city of Pietermaritzburg, in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, and people looting.

The situation in the city is volatile, the BBC’s Nomsa Maseko reports from the city. Protesters responded with live ammunition when riot police fired rubber bullets to disperse them at one of the shopping centres that were looted overnight, she says.

The violence has also spread to Johannesburg, in Gauteng province.

On Sunday, protesters armed with sticks, golf clubs and branches were seen marching through Johannesburg’s central business district.

The military said troops were being deployed to assist law enforcement agencies and “quell the unrest that has gripped both [provinces] in the last few days”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appealed for calm, saying there is no justification for the violence.

Zuma was convicted of defying an instruction to give evidence at an inquiry into corruption during his nine years in power.

He has testified only once at the inquiry into what has become known as “state capture” – meaning the siphoning-off of state assets.

In a separate legal matter, he pleaded not guilty last month in a corruption trial involving a $5bn (£3bn) arms deal from the 1990s.

His supporters argue he is the victim of a political witch hunt, orchestrated by Ramaphosa allies.

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Pro-Zuma protests spread in South Africa

BBC

Dozens of people have been arrested in South Africa as violence spreads following the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma.

Pro-Zuma protesters first took to the streets after the 79-year-old handed himself to authorities on Wednesday to begin a 15-month sentence.

But police now say criminals are taking advantage of the chaos, which spread from his home province of KwaZulu-Natal to Johannesburg, in Gauteng.

Images show buildings and cars burning.

NatJOINTS, the national intelligence body, said some 300 people had barricaded a major highway in Johannesburg – South Africa’s economic hub.

About 800 people were also involved in an incident in which one police officer was shot in Alexandra, a township in Johannesburg. Two other officers were hurt.

Police also responded to reports of looting in both Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal. More than 60 people have been arrested so far.

It is unclear if they are linked to the pro-Zuma protests, with KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman Jay Naicker telling news agency Reuters officers had seen “criminals or opportunistic individuals trying to enrich themselves during this period”.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa appealed for calm on Saturday, but on Sunday protesters with sticks, golf clubs and branches were seen marching through Johannesburg’s central business district.

The jailing of a former president is unprecedented in South Africa, which has been gripped by Zuma’s legal turmoil.

He was sentenced for contempt of court, after failing to attend an inquiry into corruption during his presidency.

Zuma denies corruption and has not co-operated with the legal process.

The case is due back in the Constitutional Court on Monday, with Zuma’s team hoping to get his sentence rescinded or reduced. On Friday, South Africa’s High Court dismissed an attempt to stay his arrest.

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Sex ban for Covid-19 vaccinated Russians

Mailonline

Russians have been told to abstain from sex for at least three days after getting vaccinated against Covid.

Dr Denis Graifer, deputy health minister for the Saratov region, said Russian should abstain from ‘increased physical stress’ after being jabbed – including sex.

It comes after Russian were also told to avoid vodka, smoking and visits to the sauna immediately after getting their inoculations.

Russia has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world, with just 13 per cent of the country fully immunized compared to a European average of 30 per cent.

‘I believe, and everyone knows this, too, that sex is a very energy-consuming activity,’ Dr Graifer told a press conference.

‘So we warn people who have been vaccinated that increased physical activity, including having sex, is not recommended after vaccination.’

Graifer, 38, is a married father of two, and has been vaccinated.

Russia is using its home-grown Sputnik V vaccine for its roll-out, a two-dose adenovirus jab similar to AstraZeneca’s shot.

While the vaccine has yet to gain approval from international health bodies such as the WHO and European Medicines Agency, data gathered from 47 countries where it is in use suggests it is highly effective at stopping severe cases of the virus.

However, take-up in Russia has been low, thanks in part to mistrust of the government and mis-management of the programme.

Graifer – a qualified doctor as well as a politician – was criticised on the Russian state media by a senior medical official who dismissed him as a ‘young colleague’ who had gone over the top with his sex ban.

‘You can do it, just do it with caution,’ said his boss Oleg Kostin referring to sex after vaccines. Russians should ‘have common sense and not overdo it,’ he urged.

Russia is currently in the midst of a third wave of Covid that is thought to be driven by spread of the Delta or Indian variant, which is more transmissible than earlier forms of the virus.

On Friday, the country announced more than 25,000 cases of the disease – the highest total yet in the third wave and approaching the all-time highs of 28,000 cases which occurred over the winter.

Russia also reported more than 700 deaths from the virus, the highest total yet and a strong indication that cases are being under-counted.

This comes as Moscow has been criticised in The Economist for its Covid-19 response.

‘Hundreds of thousands are dead, partly thanks to the Kremlin’s incompetence,’ said the newspaper.

‘Russia is in the midst of its third and most severe wave of Covid-19, with more people dying daily than at any point during the pandemic.

‘The number of new daily cases is currently around 25,000, somewhat fewer than in Britain, and rising.

‘But whereas in Britain this surge has translated into an average of 18 daily deaths over the past week, in Russia it has resulted in an average of 670 deaths a day.

‘The contrast is all the more striking because Russia was the first country in the world to approve a working vaccine, one based on the same science as the British-Swedish AstraZeneca one and apparently just as effective.

‘But whereas in Britain 78% of the population has received at least one jab, in Russia the proportion is only 20%.

‘The difference is not the availability or the efficacy of the jab, but people’s trust in the government and its vaccines.’

Putin’s government had ‘other priorities’ like jailing his political foe Alexei Navalny and banning street protests, claimed the report.

The official Covid-19 death toll is 141,501 although critics say the true figure is higher.

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Covid-19 to impoverish 120 million middle-income earners – UN chief

By Nkosana Dlamini

At least 120 million world citizens in the middle-income bracket are set to drop into the poor category due to the acute effects of the Covid-19 strain.

This was said by United Nations general secretary António Guterres in a passionate plea to richer G20 member countries to extend an economic lifeline to countries teetering on the verge of debt default mostly caused by their channelling of resources to fighting Covid-19 in their respective territories.

G20 finance officials meet in Venice this July 9-10, amid growing alarm about a looming debt crisis.

Said the UN chief, “Rich countries have poured the equivalent of 28 percent of their GDP into weathering the COVID-19 crisis.

“In middle-income countries, this figure drops to 6.5 percent; in least developed countries, to less than 2 percent.

“Many developing countries now face crippling debt service costs, at a time when their domestic budgets are stretched and their ability to raise taxes is reduced.”

He added, “The pandemic is set to increase the number of extremely poor people by some 120 million around the world; more than three-quarters of these ‘new poor’ are in middle-income countries.

“These countries need a helping hand to avoid financial catastrophe, and to invest in a strong recovery.”

Guterres said the International Monetary Fund has stepped in to allocate $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights – the best way to increase the funds available to cash-strapped economies.

“Richer countries should channel their unused shares of these funds to low and middle-income countries. That is a meaningful measure of solidarity.

“I welcome steps the G20 has already taken, including the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and Common Framework for Debt Treatment. But they are not sufficient.

“Debt relief must be extended to all middle-income countries that need it. And private lenders must also be brought into the equation,” he said.

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Jacob Zuma finally jailed

TimesLive

Former president Jacob Zuma has officially been jailed.

The correctional services department confirmed at 1.50am on Thursday that Zuma had “been admitted to start serving a 15 months sentence at [the] Estcourt Correctional Centre”.

“Mr Zuma will be taken through all the admission processes as per [department] regulations. Other relevant prescripts pertaining to admitting and orientating newly incarcerated persons will also be followed and executed.

“Details about the appropriate classification, prerogatives and incarceration conditions can only be determined at the completion of the assessment process to be undertaken by relevant authorities within the employ of [the department].

“Keeping inmates in a safe and secure custody remains cardinal to correctional services and we remain committed to this cause,” said spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo.

The statement came about two hours after Zuma handed himself over and was in police custody.

Both national SAPS spokesman Brig Vish Naidoo and police ministry spokeswoman Lirandzu Themba confirmed the news.

Naidoo said: “I can confirm that the former president has been taken into police custody well ahead of the deadline.”

Themba tweeted that Zuma was “placed in SAPS custody in compliance with the Constitutional Court order”.

As the ANC called for calm in the wake of the latest developments, Zuma it appeared that Zuma had been transferred into correctional services custody. Just before 1.30am on Thursday, the same convoy that departed Zuma’s homestead about two hours earlier was seen driving into the Estcourt facility.

The former president’s daughter, Dudu Zuma-Sambudla, tweeted that she had spoken to her dad while he was “en route”, and that he was “still in high spirits”.

“He said that he hopes they still have his same overalls from Robben Island and we laughed hard that at least he won’t struggle with Afrikaans this time round,” she tweeted.

The JZ Foundation also confirmed in a statement just before midnight on Wednesday that the former president had decided to comply with the incarceration order”.

“He is on his way to hand himself into a correctional services facility in KZN. A full statement will be issued in due course,” the foundation said.

ANC spokesman Pule Mabe said the party had noted the fact that Zuma had handed himself over.

“The African National Congress has always restated its unequivocal commitment to and defence of the Constitution, in particular the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary, amongst the founding principles and values of the Republic of South Africa.

“Without doubt this is a difficult period in the movement and we call upon our members to remain calm and respect the decision taken by former president Jacob Zuma to abide by the rulings of the court,” he said.

The foundation statement came about 45 minutes after an eight-vehicle motorcade pulled out of the Zuma family’s Nkandla homestead about 11.15 on Wednesday night. Sources had confirmed that Zuma was in one of the vehicles.

One source close to the situation said “it’s definitely him”, while two Zuma family members also confirmed that the former president had left the homestead. One of the family members said Zuma was going to hand himself over to authorities.

However, Edward Zuma, the former president’s son, denied that this was the case. Another brother, Khanya Zuma, also denied it and laughed.

The convoy left in the direction of Kranskop rather than towards Eshowe, a road that leads to Estcourt.

A short while later, staunch Zuma backer Carl Niehaus also left the homestead. He ignored questions over whether Zuma was still at home or had left in the convoy.

Newzroom Afrika was reporting that roads were closed and there were “heavily armed police spotted at the Estcourt prison”, the newest correctional facility to have been built in KwaZulu-Natal.

The R387m Estcourt prison was opened in 2019 and has a hospital section, training centre, maintenance workshop, among others. Comprising of two sections, the prison can accommodate just over 500 inmates.

The departure of the convoy came shortly after a private ambulance that was initially turned away from former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead on Wednesday night was later allowed to enter through the main gates.

At about 10.30pm, the ambulance, with Daymed Medical Services branding, pulled up to the gates and was met by Zuma’s supporters.

After the driver pulled up to the gate, Zuma’s son, Edward Zuma, approached his window. In a conversation, part of which TimesLIVE was able to overhear, the driver said he was here “for Mr Zuma”, to which Edward replied: “Who sent you?”

Edward quickly sent the ambulance away, saying he must be notified first. The ambulance then left the area.

However, about 30 minutes later arrangements were made for the ambulance to enter the property.

Earlier, Edward told journalists that his dad was “in SA” and was in good spirits.

Edward was leading the supporters at the homestead as the clock ticked towards the midnight deadline for police to arrest Zuma after his conviction for contempt of court last week.

As the deadline loomed, Edward, who was brandishing a stick, instructed the handful of supporters gathered at the homestead to move vehicles and park them in such a way that they were partially blocking the entrance to the home.

He said that he had been told police were on their way from nearby Eshowe. However, he said that while the SAPS convoy might not be stopped en route, it would be stopped at the gate and not be allowed entry.

Earlier in the day Edward vowed that there would be bloodshed if his father was arrested.

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Haiti President Assassinated in home attack

BBC

Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse has been killed and his wife injured in an attack on their home in the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

Unidentified gunmen stormed the property at 01:00 local time (05:00 GMT), interim PM Claude Joseph said.

He has called for calm and declared a state of emergency nationwide.

Moïse had led Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, since 2017 but had faced widespread protests demanding his resignation.

The nation’s recent history has been plagued by coups, political instability and widespread gang violence.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “saddened at the death of Mr Moïse”, calling it “an abhorrent act” and appealing for calm. US President Joe Biden offered condolences to the people of Haiti for the “horrific assassination”.

Joseph called the shooting of the president a “heinous, inhuman and barbaric act”, saying the attackers were “foreigners who spoke English and Spanish”. Haiti’s official languages are Creole and French.

Some reports spoke of men dressed in black carrying high-powered weapons who may have pretended to be part of a US drug enforcement operation, but no official details have been given.

Addressing the nation, Joseph vowed the killers would be brought to justice and said the security situation was “under control”.

The state of emergency, or “state of siege”, allows for the banning of gatherings and use of the military for police roles, along with other extensions of executive powers.

Joseph said that “all measures have been taken to ensure continuity” and that “democracy and the republic will win”.

But questions remain about how much control Joseph can assert.

Haiti’s constitution says ministers, under the leadership of the prime minister, take control in the event of presidential vacancy, until elections can be called.

But that also remains unclear, as a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, had been named by Moïse just this week but has yet to be sworn in.

The streets of the capital appeared to be largely empty on Wednesday morning.

The neighbouring Dominican Republic ordered the “immediate closure” of its border with Haiti.

First Lady Martine Moïse is being treated in hospital but her condition remains unclear.

Jovenel Moïse, 53, had been in power since February 2017.

His time in office was rocky as he faced accusations of corruption and there were widespread demonstrations in the capital and other cities earlier this year.

Haiti’s opposition said that Moïse’s five-year term should have ended on 7 February 2021, five years to the day since his predecessor, Michel Martelly, stepped down.

But there had been a year’s delay to elections after Martelly’s departure, and Moïse insisted he had one more year to serve as he did not take office until 7 February 2017.

Parliamentary elections should have been held in October 2019 but disputes have delayed them, meaning Moïse had been ruling by decree.

In February this year, on the day the opposition wanted him to leave office, Moïse said an attempt to kill him and overthrow the government had been foiled.

Haiti has also faced a wave of recent gang violence and kidnappings, particularly in the capital, with a number of its districts becoming no-go areas.

The worsening living standards in the nation of 11 million people have pushed nearly 60% below the poverty line.

An earthquake in 2010 killed more than 200,000 people and caused extensive damage to the infrastructure and the economy.

A UN peacekeeping force was put in place in 2004 to help stabilise the country, and only withdrew in 2017, but the turmoil has shown no sign of ending.

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Gunmen Kidnap 140 schoolchildren in Nigeria

BBC

Gunmen in Nigeria have kidnapped at least 140 schoolchildren in the north-west of the country, police say.

At least eight people were also abducted from the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Centre in Zaria early on Sunday morning.

Two nurses and a 12-month-old child were among those seized, said a hospital worker.

There has been a recent spate of abductions from schools and universities for ransom.

On Monday, reports emerged of another mass kidnapping from a school near Kaduna city, about 80km (50 miles) south-west of Zaria.

The mother of a 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped from Bethel Baptist School told the BBC that 140 schoolchildren had been seized by a large group of armed men who arrived on motorbikes and broke down the fence.

In a statement, police said gunmen “overpowered the school’s security guards and made their way into the students’ hostel where they abducted an unspecified number of students into the forest”.

A total of 26 people – including a female teacher – had been rescued, the statement said.

A local Christian leader said there were 180 students in the school, only 20 of whom had been accounted for so far. However, he said some of them may have escaped.

Police said gunmen involved in the hospital attack in Zaria, thought to be from criminal groups known locally as “bandits”, opened fire on a police station in the city.

While they were engaged in the shootout, another group attacked the hospital.

“The attack on the police station was a distraction whilst another group attacked the dormitories of the health centre workers,” a local resident told AFP news agency.

The group escaped with the victims into a nearby forest.

A hospital worker, who asked not to be named, told BBC Hausa that the gunmen had abducted at least 12 people, including three children under the age of three and a teenager.

A local government official said troops were stepping up efforts to find the victims.

More than 1,000 students have been taken since December and nine have been killed. More than 200 students are still missing, some of them as young as three.

Authorities say recent attacks on schools in the north-west have been carried out by bandits, a loose term for kidnappers, armed robbers, cattle rustlers and other armed militia operating in the region who are largely motivated by money.

Since the well-publicised abduction in 2014 of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok secondary school by Boko Haram Islamist militants in Borno state, more armed groups have resorted to mass abduction of students.

 

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Jacob Zuma Declares Will Not Go To Jail

Africa News

Embattled former South African president Jacob Zuma has addressed supporters outside his home, declaring that ‘he will not go to jail’.

Zuma who was visibly dancing and singing ‘Mshiniwam’ (bring my machine gun), spoke on the deadline set by the constitutional court to hand himself over to start a 15-month jail term.

He told his supporters that he had sent letters to the court pleading the case that his sentencing “was wrong to ask and if they can reduce it or strike it out”.

“You have given the nation hope that no one will ever be mistreated or abused under this democratic dispensation” the former South African President told the cheering crowd of supporters.

The supporters, in their hundreds had remained camped outside Zuma’s home until Sunday morning when the former leader addressed them. Some supporters vowed to render the country ungovernable if Zuma ended up jailed. Some on Sunday were singing, “Don’t rush the war, war kills!”

After historically sentencing him to a 15-month term for contempt of court, South Africa’s constitutional court agreed to hear Zuma’s challenge to rescind the order.

A surrender deadline was set to run out on Sunday but after refusing to testify in a corruption trial, Zuma has shown no sign he will hand himself in to the authorities.

“If (Police Minister) Bheki Cele comes here to arrest uBaba (Zuma) he must start with us,” a protester Lindokuhle Maphalala told AFP.

Vowing to protect Zuma against jail time, other protesters called for President Cyril Ramaphosa to step down.

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