NKANDLA, South Africa, July 4 (Reuters) - South Africa's ex-president Jacob Zuma lashed out on Sunday at the judges who this week gave him a 15-month jail term for absconding from a corruption inquiry, comparing them to the white minority apartheid rulers he once fought.
Zuma spoke at his home in Nkandla, in a rural part of Kwazulu Natal province, where hundreds of his supporters, some of them armed, were gathered to prevent his arrest.
"The fact that I was lambasted with a punitive jail sentence without trial should engender shock in all those who believe in freedom and the rule of law," Zuma told journalists.
"South Africa is fast sliding back to apartheid rule."
The constitutional court sentenced Zuma on Tuesday for contempt of court for failing to appear at a hearing in February of the inquiry led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
On Saturday it agreed to hear his challenge to the jail term, suspending it until after a hearing on July 12.
The sentence was seen as a sign of just how far Zuma, once revered as a veteran of the struggle against white minority rule, has fallen since embarking on a presidency beset by multiple sleaze and graft scandals between 2009 and 2018.
Earlier on Sunday, gunshots rang out across Nklandla, as some of his supporters fired their weapons into the air, while others danced with spears and ox-hide shields -- the traditional weapons of Zuma's Zulu nation.
"I fought and went to prison so there must be justice and the rule of law. No honest person can accuse me of being against the rule of law," Zuma told journalists. (Reporting by Siyabonga Sishi Writing by Tim Cocks Editing by Catherine Evans)