Jacob Zuma during a court hearing
South Africa’s jailed former President Jacob Zuma, who is serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court at Estcourt Correctional Centre, has been granted medical parole.
The nature of the 79-year-old’s illness was not specified, but a statement from that country’s Department of Correctional Services said he would complete the rest of his sentence in the community under special conditions.
Zuma has been in hospital for the past month where he has undergone surgery and is expected to remain there until he has been discharged.
Zuma handed himself in to the police in July after being sentenced for failing to attend an inquiry into corruption during his presidency.
His jailing was unprecedented for an ex-president, sparking violent protests and looting.
Though he was forced out of office by his own party, the African National Congress (ANC) in 2018, he retains a loyal body of supporters, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Zuma was sentenced on June 29 for defying an instruction to give evidence at an inquiry into corruption during his nine years in power. He has testified only once at the inquiry into what has become known as “state capture” — meaning the siphoning off of state assets.
Businessmen have been accused of conspiring with politicians to influence the decision-making process while he was in office. Zuma has repeatedly said he is the victim of a political conspiracy.
The decision to grant him parole was compelled by a medical report to South Africa’s prison department, it said. He also faces a separate corruption trial, which is due to resume on Thursday, September 9.
Zuma’s medical parole could only be revoked if he does not comply with the placement conditions, Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said.
“We want to reiterate that placement on medical parole is an option available to all sentenced offenders provided they meet all the requirements.
“We appeal to all South Africans to afford Zuma dignity as he continues to receive medical treatment,” Nxumalo said.
Zuma’s spokesman told news agency AFP he had not spoken to the former president since the news broke, but that “he should have been relieved”, saying his imprisonment had worsened his health having “an exponential impact in terms of deteriorating his condition”.
South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, criticised the parole as “entirely unlawful and makes a mockery” of prison regulations.
The country’s Department of Correctional Services said the medical parole has been made under Section 75(7)(a) of the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998.
It affords the National Commissioner the 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.
The National Commissioner is also in terms of Section 52, empowered to prescribe conditions of parole.
The statement said Zuma’s medical parole’s eligibility is impelled by a medical report the Department of Correctional Services received.
“Apart from being terminally ill and physically incapacitated, inmates suffering from an illness that severely limits their daily activity or self-care can also be considered for medical parole,” says the statement.
“The risk of re-offending of released inmates must also be low and there must be appropriate arrangements for the inmate’s supervision, care and treatment within the community to which the inmate is to be released to.
“Medical parole placement for Mr Zuma means that he will complete the remainder of the sentence in the system of community corrections, whereby he must comply with specific set of conditions and will be subjected to supervision until his sentence expires.
“Medical Parole can only be revoked if an offender does not comply with the placement conditions. We want to reiterate that placement on medical parole is an option available to all sentenced offenders provided they meet all the requirements.
“We appeal to all South Africans to afford Mr Zuma dignity as he continues to receive medical treatment,” says the statement from Nxumalo.—Additional reporting by Maravi Express