Correctional services commission Arthur Fraser overruled a recommendation that former president Jacob Zuma should not be released on medical parole, he said on Wednesday.
Speaking to the SABC’s Vuyo Mvoko in an exclusive interview on his show, The Watchdog, Fraser admitted that, after assessments, the medical parole advisory board “did not approve medical parole” because Zuma was “in a stable condition”.
But, said Fraser, he stood by his decision to overrule this and release the former president.
“I took the decision to place him on medical parole, and I’ve given a host of reasons. The reasons are available. It’s in documentation, and it will be presented to whoever needs to see that. I’m sure parliament will be asking,” he said.
Earlier in the hour-long interview, Fraser explained the process that was followed which ultimately saw the former president released.
He said that Zuma was brought into the Estcourt correctional facility and underwent various assessments, including a health assessment, by medical and administrative staff. This was the same process followed for every inmate, and was not unique to Zuma.
“When you do the assessments, you then know what type of care must be given. When we deal with care we deal with even dietary requirements. Every offender … will have to be able to give a history of themselves, health and otherwise. Then we assess how we categorise them and how we are able to place them. This was the process applied [to Zuma],” said Fraser.
It was during this process that Zuma “declared his comorbidities”, the prisons boss said.
“But additional to that, because he was still under the care of the SA military health service, they also provided us [with] an assessment on his first day of admission. So that is when we realised that we’ve got a person in our custody who actually is frail.
“We then received further reports, medical reports, that indicated that he required specialised treatment and it was only around the third report that we received, where his medical team – the medical team, in conjunction with our team – indicated that he can no longer be kept in our facility because the type of med care required we are not able to provide,” he said.
It was at this point that Zuma was taken to hospital.
“When we are directed by health professionals, we are obligated. It has to be done. You’ll recall that he had gone to hospital because we were advised that the type of care he needed and the type of clinical procedures that needed to be done couldn’t be done in our facility. We then had to move him to a medical healthcare institution, and it’s there that we got further reports. We then got informed that there’s a range of procedures that need to happen, and all of that,” said Fraser.
Now, he said, was when the application was made for medical parole. This was in early August, said Fraser, who said he didn’t have the exact dates at hand.
“There was then, from the medical staff, an application made much earlier where they applied for medical parole. And I think that’s at the beginning of August, when they applied, and we directed [them] to the relevant structures [to assess the application]. In our structures we’ve got healthcare and then we’ve got [the] medical advisory parole board, so we directed it to them.
“They allocated a doctor to go and do an observation, as they do in all instances. They did the observation, and based on the doctor’s engagement and assessment on the patient, recommendations were made to the medical parole advisory board.
“The recommendations were that the board did not approve medical parole, because they indicated that he was in a stable condition,” said Fraser.
He said that the head of the Estcourt prison – “who has the authority to decide” – reviewed the information available and “then indicated that the conditions, based on all the reports that we have, require us to release the former president”.
This was when he, personally, took the decision to release Zuma on medical parole. Mvoko asked Fraser whether he felt this decision would stand up to scrutiny.
“It’s legal and procedural,” he said.
The Jacob G Zuma Foundation said on Tuesday night that the former president was still in hospital and had not yet gone home, despite being placed on medical parole.