As many expected, contempt of court convict ex-president Jacob Zuma has been placed on medical parole and will be returning to Nkandla when released from hospital – hardly 60 days since the high drama of his arrest and much to the chagrin of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).
DA leader John Steenhuisen said a report on the health of any prisoner must be subject to recommendation by an independent board to confirm a prisoner is indeed deserving of medical parole.
“This medical parole was granted to Zuma by his former spy boss, Arthur Fraser – a man deeply implicated in the corruption of the State Security Agency and accused of running an illegal parallel intelligence structure,” Steenhuisen said.
“Instead of firing him President Cyril Ramaphosa promoted him to his current position of prisons boss.”
Fraser was appointed as head of the State Security Agency by Zuma in 2016 and removed by Ramaphosa in 2018.
“Given that Zuma publicly refused to be examined by an independent medical professional, this decision is a violation of the Act and therefore unlawful.
“Any prisoner considered for medical parole must meet three criteria stipulated in the Act: they must suffer from a terminal illness or be rendered physically incapacitated due to injury, disease or illness; the risk of re-offending must be low; and there must be arrangements for care in the community to which he or she is to be released.
“Simply being of an advanced age does not qualify,” Steenhuisen said.
Zuma now joins the ranks of Schabir Shaik – released in 2009 after serving two years and four months of his 15-year prison term – and former police commissioner Jackie Selebi, released in 2012, having served just 219 days of his 15-year sentence.
While the “terminally ill” Shaik reacquainted himself with golf and managed to fit in allegedly assaulting a journalist, Selebi remained on kidney dialysis until his death in January 2015.
The Zuma-bombshell was dropped by the department of correctional services yesterday afternoon.
“Section 75(7)(a) of the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998, affords the National Commissioner [Arthur Fraser] a responsibility to place under correctional supervision or day parole, or grant parole or medical parole to a sentenced offender serving a sentence of incarceration for 24 months or less,” spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said.
He said Zuma was still in a hospital after a surgical procedure and his release date would be determined by his medical team.
Zuma won the right to appear personally in court on 4 August for his corruption trial, which saw Shaik jailed for similar charges.
Only 10 days later Zuma was in hospital for an undisclosed medical procedure, which saw the trial being delayed yet again.
Political analyst Daniel Silke said the precedence for suspicious paroles in the past would make many suspect the current circumstances of Zuma’s release.
“It really is incumbent upon the authorities to be transparent about whatever ailments are affecting Zuma and provide independent verification of his condition,” said Silke.
“While one is always sympathetic to illness, the special circumstances surrounding him and the history of those in a similar position to Zuma does necessitate proper transparency.”
However, Zuma still has to allow an independent medical expert to verify his alleged medical condition before court on Thursday.