Its back to jail for Jacob Zuma – Department of Correctional Services fumes


Within hours of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruling that Jacob Zuma's release on medical parole was unlawful and ordering him back to jail, both the former president and prison authorities announced they would appeal that decision.

Judge Elias Matojane not only found that former national commissioner of correctional services Arthur Fraser's decision to release Zuma on medical parole was unlawful, he also ruled the time Zuma had spent on medical parole could not be counted as part of the 15-month contempt sentence imposed on him by the Constitutional Court.

And that means Zuma would have to remain behind bars until he had served one-quarter of that sentence and became eligible for ordinary parole.

In an 11-page leave to appeal application, his lawyers now argued it was "a particularly gross misdirection to order the return of Mr Zuma to jail and to conditions which are far worse than the hospital ward from which his medical parole was granted on the basis that no prison could adequately cater for his constitutional rights".

"This is tantamount to the death sentence which was abolished in 1995 in South Africa," they argued.

In a brief press statement, the Department of Correctional Services stated on Wednesday evening it believed Matojane "sadly misinterpreted the Correctional Services Act and erred in declaring the decision of the national commissioner to place Mr Zuma on medical parole to be unlawful and setting it aside".

"Having carefully studied the judgment, DCS [Department of Correctional Services] is convinced that another court may arrive at a different conclusion," the department stated.
While both Zuma and the department had raised a number of legal-technical issues to the medical parole challenges launched by the Helen Suzman Foundation, DA and AfriForum, Matojane did not buy any of them.

The judge also dismissed every single one of the reasons Fraser gave in justification of his decision to override the Medical Parole Advisory Board's recommendation that Zuma not be granted medical parole.

He said the Correctional Services Act required that only terminally ill or physically incapacitated inmates be eligible for such parole.

After considering all the relevant medical reports and submissions by Zuma's military doctors, the board had elected not to sign off on him getting medical parole.

"From the information received, [Zuma] suffers from multiple comorbidities," the board stated.

"His treatment has been optimised and all conditions have been brought under control. From the available information in the reports, the conclusion reached by the MPAB [Medical Parole Advisory Board] is that [Zuma] is stable and does not qualify for medical parole according to the act."

In their leave to appeal application, Zuma's lawyers appear intent on making the case that he is, in fact terminally ill – despite the board's expert doctors not finding this to be the case – and arguing there is "objective evidence" of the former president's life-threatening condition.

That "evidence" centres on the fact that one of the doctors who assessed Zuma, a "Dr Mafa", answered "yes" when asked on a form if he was suffering from a terminal illness or chronic condition.

Bizarrely, Zuma's lawyers also accused Matojane of "second-guessing and/or overruling the expert and professional opinions of qualified medical experts" when he "does not possess any medical expertise sufficient to make any contrary finding" – despite the judge basing his ruling on the expert assessment given by the board.

Zuma also had no issue with Fraser, who has no medical expertise, overriding the board's recommendation that he not receive medical parole.

In his ruling, Matojane explicitly found Fraser had no basis on which to do so, given he "does not have the medical expertise to overrule the recommendation of the board".

Fraser chose to overrule the board days after it gave that recommendation, arguing, among other things, he feared the same unrest that followed Zuma's imprisonment in July, if the former president should die behind bars.

Following Zuma's arrest for defying the Constitutional Court's orders that he appear before the State Capture Inquiry and incarceration at the Estcourt Correctional Centre, Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng were gripped by violent looting and destruction that left more than 300 people dead.

Matojane was not, however, persuaded by Fraser's unrest argument.

He stated:
Threats of riots are not grounds for releasing an offender on medical parole

Despite that finding, certain of Zuma's Radical Economic Transformation [RET] supporters greeted Matojane's judgment with promises they would defend Zuma to the death.

"[Previously], it was his choice to go to prison and bypass us. I hope he will not do that because we will forever be ready, even if it means dying in defence of our ideals, we will do so," Nkosentsha Shezi, a close Zuma ally and RET leader, told News24.

eThekwini metro councillor Ntando Khuzwayo, an ardent Zuma supporter and spokesperson for former mayor Zandile Gumede's supporters, said they would meet to discuss a way forward following the court ruling.

"There are no plans for mobilisation yet, but we are going to demonstrate our displeasure. We are going to be meeting later today [Wednesday] to discuss the way forward," he said.

In response to Matojane's ruling, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) – which is currently investigating the violent unrest that followed Zuma's imprisonment in July – appealed for calm.

"The commission also notes that social media is already abuzz with statements that have the potential to inflame the situation in the country," it said in a statement.

"The commission recalls that such media statements did in fact inflame the situation in June/July 2021 and led to the July unrest that took many innocent lives and resulted in large-scale destruction of property in addition to violations of other human rights of many people in the country."

The SAHRC called on the Security Cluster "to note the developments, including the evolving social media discourse about the recent High Court decision, and to do their best to prevent the repeat of the July experiences".

The ANC, meanwhile, has remained tight-lipped about Matojane's ruling, saying only it noted the decision and awaited a response to it from prison authorities.
DA leader John Steenhuisen said the party's successful litigation to challenge the medical parole granted to Zuma by Fraser exposed "why the ANC deploys its cadres to key positions in the state, and why this practice should be outlawed".

"Mr Fraser was appointed national commissioner of correctional services precisely to do the bidding of the ruling party. His job was to bend the law in favour of the ANC. Hopefully, cases like these will help put the final nail in the coffin of ANC cadre deployment," he added.

"It is never pleasant for anyone to go to jail, but Mr Zuma knew very well what the consequences would be for his blatant disregard for the law and the authority of the Constitutional Court.

"What this judgment has confirmed is that he is just an ordinary citizen with no special privileges, and that the law applies equally to him as it does to any of us. We appeal to Mr Zuma and his supporters to respect the rule of law, and to accept this judgment without resorting to further violence and protest."

GOOD secretary-general Brett Herron said the High Court ruling that Zuma's medical parole was unlawful was another massive setback for the integrity of the state and its decision-making systems.

"South Africa is in a deep socio-economic crisis of joblessness, poverty and inequality. The country can ill-afford to continue to be mismanaged by incompetent and corrupt senior officials. This judgment must galvanise government to clean up and professionalise the public service," Herron added.


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