Fears of renewed unrest as judge sends Zuma back to jail
Former president ‘unlawfully benefited from a lesser punishment’, judge rules in medical parole case
Former president Jacob Zuma must go back to jail as he is not terminally ill or physically incapacitated, and so does not legally qualify for medical parole, the high court in Pretoria has ruled.
Judge Elias Matojane ruled that in releasing Zuma on medical parole, then correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser undermined “respect for the courts, the rule of law and the constitution itself”.
He declared the decision unlawful and set it aside.
Zuma’s initial incarceration sparked unprecedented unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July; more than 300 people were killed and R50bn was lost to the economy, which is still reeling from the effects.
Jailing Zuma again could result in renewed unrest, particularly given that law enforcement agencies performed hopelessly in containing the July unrest.
His release on medical parole less than two months after beginning a 15-month sentence for defying a Constitutional Court order to appear before the Zondo commission was challenged in court by the DA.
This was after Fraser, a Zuma ally, ignored a recommendation by the medical parole board not to grant Zuma medical parole. Fraser’s contract as correctional services commissioner has since expired. In Wednesday’s judgment, Matojane ruled that Zuma should be returned to the Estcourt correctional centre to serve his sentence and that the three months he had been out on medical parole should not count. He will therefore have to spend an additional three months in jail to complete the 15-month sentence handed down initially by the Constitutional Court.
“The commissioner’s unlawful intervention has resulted in the third respondent [Zuma] enjoying nearly three months of his sentence sitting at home in Nkandla, not serving his sentence in any meaningful sense,” Matojane said.
“The DA, in support of their review application, refers to a Sunday Times article of October 17 2021 reporting that the third respondent met with his political allies Carl Niehaus (a former staffer at Luthuli house) and Dudu Myeni (the former chair of SAA) at the Sibaya Casino on October 15 2021. The third respondent also addressed his supporters at a virtual prayer meeting on October 14 2021.
“As determined by the board, the third respondent is not terminally ill or severely incapacitated and seems to be living a normal life.”
Matojane said Fraser had unlawfully mitigated the punishment imposed on Zuma by the highest court in the land, “thereby rendering the constitutional order ineffective, which undermines the respect for the courts, for the rule of law and for the constitution itself”.
Matojane said that returning Zuma to prison to complete his term would not be unfair as there was “no suggestion that he was an innocent party”.
He added: “The third respondent defied the Zondo commission, the judiciary and the rule of law and is resolute in his refusal to participate in the commission’s proceedings.
“He continues to attack the Constitutional Court while unlawfully benefiting from a lesser punishment than what the Constitutional Court has imposed. He states in his answering affidavit that he considers himself ‘a prisoner of the Constitutional Court’ and claims that he was ‘incarcerated without trial’,” the judgment read.
Zuma is likely to appeal.
Read the full judgment below.
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