Jacob Zuma
Former SA President Jacob Zuma Photo: Twitter: Jacob Zuma Foundation

The DA and AfriForum are both celebrating today’s decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein to uphold the Gauteng High Court’s finding that former president Jacob Zuma’s medical parole was illegal.

The Supreme Court of Appeal did, however, set aside the earlier High Court order that the time Zuma spent outside prison on medical parole cannot be deducted from his sentence, but upheld the order of the High Court that Zuma must return to Estcourt prison.

The SCA said it is up to the Commissioner to determine the remaining period of Zuma’s incarceration. The Court also expressed its disapproval that while this judgement was pending, the Department of Correctional Services released a media statement saying that Mr Zuma had completed his sentence.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment in June 2021, after he failed to appear before the Zondo Commission on state capture during his presidency. Zuma began serving his sentence at the end of July 2021, but was released on medical parole on 5 September 2021. The then National Commissioner for Correctional Services, Arthur Fraser, approved the medical parole even though the medical parole board found that Zuma did not qualify for medical parole. AfriForum obtained a High Court ruling in December 2021 that Zuma’s medical parole was granted illegally and that the time Zuma spent outside prison on medical parole cannot be deducted from his sentence. Zuma took the case on appeal.

“The Supreme Court of Appeal’s ruling means that two courts have found that Zuma should never have received medical parole. The fact that Zuma did receive medical parole, even though he did not qualify for it, therefore points to prominent politicians receiving preferential treatment at correctional services. However, the biggest farce is that Zuma, who was apparently terminally ill a year ago, is now actively involved in politics again and is trying to occupy a high position in the ANC,” says Reiner Duvenage, Campaign Officer for Strategy and Content at AfriForum.

DA Leader John Steenhuisen said:

“It is crucial now that the Commissioner of Correctional Services does the right thing. Zuma must be made to serve his sentence like any ordinary South African would be made to do. The Commissioner should not be swayed by threats of a repeat of the July unrest in KZN last year, which were sparked by Zuma supporters protesting his arrest.”

Steenhuisen said in a statement on Monday that Zuma was imprisoned for contempt of court so serious that it constituted a near-existential threat to the authority of the judicial system. In the words of the Court:

“Indeed, if we do not intervene immediately to send a clear message to the public that this conduct stands to be rebuked in the strongest of terms, there is a real and imminent risk that a mockery will be made of this Court and the judicial process in the eyes of the public. The vigour with which Mr Zuma is peddling his disdain of this Court and the judicial process carries the further risk that he will inspire or incite others to similarly defy this Court, the judicial process and the rule of law.”

Steenhuisen said if left unchallenged, Fraser’s parole decision would have harmed the court in exactly the same way that Zuma’s contempt of court did. He added:

“It is a terrible indictment on President Ramaphosa that he not only failed to speak out against this egregious decision to medically parole Mr Zuma, but that he openly welcomed it. Worse still, he facilitated it by deploying the deeply compromised Arthur Fraser to the position of Commissioner of Correctional Services in the first place.

“President Ramaphosa transferred Arthur Fraser from his position as Director-General of the State Security Agency to the post of National Commissioner of Correctional Services in 2018, knowing full well the many crimes Fraser stood accused of, including the parallel intelligence network he set up to serve Mr Zuma’s personal interests.

“The president’s ulterior motive for allowing Mr Zuma to be placed on medical parole has become clearer with the benefit of hindsight. It was not only an attempt to placate the Zuma faction of the ANC for the sake of ANC unity, and to avoid another frenzy of mass destruction as happened in KZN in July last year after Mr Zuma was convicted. It was also aimed at stopping the president’s own smallanyana skeletons from tumbling out the Phala Phala closet, since Mr Fraser held the key to that closet.”