JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s highest court on Friday rejected an appeal to throw out the prison sentence of Jacob Zuma, the former president who was jailed for refusing to appear before a commission investigating corruption accusations that tainted his tenure as the nation’s leader.

Mr. Zuma’s arrest was hailed as a victory for South Africa’s young democracy, a sign that not even a former head of state was above the law. It was also a signal from President Cyril Ramaphosa that his administration would deal decisively with corruption.

Mr. Zuma, 79, was released on medical parole last week, after serving a fraction of his 15-month jail term, much of which was spent in the prison’s medical ward.

But the court on Friday rejected his appeal to have the prison sentence overturned. Despite what it called Mr. Zuma’s “creative attempts” to prove his case, the Constitutional Court found his arrest was warranted.

taken into custody on July 7, handing himself over to authorities minutes before a midnight deadline.

While Mr. Zuma’s tenure as president from 2009 to 2018 was marked by scandal and mismanagement, he remains beloved in some corners of the nation, particularly his home province, KwaZulu-Natal.

His arrest set off a wave of violence, with rampant looting and

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