On Sunday 5 September 2021 the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) granted medical parole to jailed former president Jacob Zuma, who is currently serving a 15-month custodial jail sentence for contempt of court because of his refusal to abide by subpoenas to appear before the Zondo Commission.
Mr Zuma’s medical parole comes a mere two months after being jailed. His ongoing corruption trial has also been adjourned to 9 September 2021 because of his claimed ill health. Reports indicate that the DCS, in reaching this decision, is relying on section 75(7)(a) of the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998 which affords the National Commissioner of Correctional Services the power to grant parole or medical parole – or place under correctional supervision or day parole – a sentenced offender serving a custodial prison sentence of 24 months or less.
The circumstances under which Mr Zuma has now been granted medical parole are not only deeply suspect – but also do not conform procedurally with additional provisions regarding the granting of medical parole as set out in the Correctional Matters Amendment Act 5 of 2011.
This act makes it very clear that the Minister must establish a medical advisory board to provide an independent medical report to the National Commissioner, Correctional Supervision and Parole Board or the Minister, as the case may be in addition to the medical report on which the petitioner for medical parole bases his/her application. This has seemingly not been done in Zuma’s case. Furthermore – Zuma has persistently refused to be examined by an independent medical professional (or any medical advisory board).
Most seriously, Mr Zuma’s parole was approved by National Commissioner of Correctional Services, Arthur Fraser, who is well known to have close ties with Mr Zuma and who himself was alleged to have been involved in state capture at the South African State Security Agency (SSA).
The granting of medical parole to Mr Zuma also shows strong similarities to the case of one of Zuma’s other convicted associates – Shabir Schaik. In 2005 Shaik was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for his involvement in the arms deal corruption. Subsequently, after only two years and two months, he was released on medical parole on the grounds of “terminal illness”. He was shortly thereafter reportedly frequently spotted in public and, according to various articles, seen shopping‚ dining at fancy restaurants, and playing golf on various different occasions.
Section 1(c) of the Constitution establishes the supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law as foundational values of our country. The abuse of political influence to undermine criminal justice processes negates these core constitutional values and sets a dangerous precedent. It is also unacceptable that, despite the constitutional provision of equality before the law, some prisoners are apparently given preferential treatment because of their political status and connections.
Unfortunately, this development seriously undermines President Ramaphosa’s efforts to re-establish the integrity of state institutions and processes.
Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation
6 September 2021