Former president Jacob Zuma says he handed himself over to authorities in July to serve a 15-month prison term for contempt of court, to avoid the potential loss of innocent lives.

Zuma’s virtual address to a prayer meeting at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium was his first public address since he went to prison in July.

Earlier, the Jacob Zuma Foundation could not confirm if the former president will attend Thursday’s prayer event being held for him.

The prayer meeting was held to welcome Zuma from hospital, where he was recuperating following an operation.

Zuma’s address to prayer meeting:

Zuma says there was a build-up of security forces in the King Cetshwayo District of KwaZulu-Natal before he handed himself over.

This happened against the backdrop of supporters of the former president at his home at Nkandla, who vowed to prevent his arrest.

Zuma says the security actions appeared to him to be a heavy-handed show of force and an unwarranted threat of violence.

Zuma on his arrest

Zuma says the rule of law is being used as a weapon to settle political scores.

“The constitution and the rule of law appear to be used as weapons to avenge oneself against political opponents and to suppress alternative viewpoints. The rule of law is losing its essential power to build a strong and united nation.”