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Jacob Zuma heading back to jail to finish his sentence

The high court in Pretoria has set aside the decision to release former president Jacob Zuma on medical parole, ordering him to go back to jail.

The decision of the North Gauteng High Court sitting in Pretoria, to set aside the medical parole granted to former President Jacob Zuma has set the cat among the pigeons, with one of the supporters of the former head of state even calling for “protests”.

On Wednesday, the high court ruled that the medical parole that freed Zuma on September 5 this year, two months into his 15 months sentence for contempt of the Constitutional Court, is null and void.

Furthermore, the court ordered that Zuma should be sent back to the dark rooms of Estcourt prison in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands where he was booked for his jail term.

In part of its 34-page long judgement, the high court said the decision by former prisons boss, Arthur Fraser, saw Zuma serving three months at home instead of in a cell, as directed by the Constitutional Court.

It also said that reports showed that Zuma was not terminally ill just like how the parole board whose decision was overruled by Fraser said. That was because Zuma was seen in a meeting in Durban with close supporters and he even virtually addressed a rally convened by his supporters in Durban.

“The Commissioner has unlawfully mitigated the punishment imposed by the Constitutional Court, thereby rendering the Constitutional order ineffective, which undermines the respect for the courts, for the rule of law and for the  Constitution itself,” reads part of the ruling.

One of the most vocal supporters of Zuma, Carl Niehaus, slammed the ruling, saying the judiciary is captured and is now used to fight factional political battles.

“First of all, let me state that this ruling is an outrage because… the initial sentence was illegal and carried out by the Constitutional Court without a trial,” he said, adding that Zuma’s health condition has been ignored and justice has been ignored.

Asked whether he was not worried that the ruling may not spark another unrest like the July one where over 300 people died in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng and scores of businesses were looted, he said “I hope not.”

However, Niehaus said people must protest against the ruling ad do so in an orderly manner.

“I call on our people to register their protest, but they must do so peacefully and legally,” he said.

The spokesperson of the department of correctional services, Singabakho Nxumalo, said they are still studying the judgement and will make announcements in due course.

“The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) notes the judgement delivered on 15 December 2021 by the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Pretoria, on the medical parole placement of the former President, Mr Jacob Zuma. DCS is currently studying the judgment and in due course, we will make further pronouncements,” he said.

The department was cited as a respondent in the court action, which was initiated by the DA and the Helen Suzman Foundation.

The SAPS, which was found wanting in July and slammed for incapacity, is yet to comment about its readiness to counter any violent protest and looting if Zuma is jailed again.

Zuma was granted medical parole in September just two months into a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court.

The then National Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser released Zuma despite the medical parole advisory board’s recommendation against it.

The country’s official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), asked the court to overrule Fraser’s decision.

“This is a big victory for the rule of law,” DA leader, John Steenhuisen, told broadcaster eNCA.

Zuma remains a controversial figure

Zuma, who served two terms as president between 2009 and 2019, is expected to appeal the decision.

He was found guilty in June after refusing to obey a court order to appear before a commission probing corruption and fraud. The Zondo commission, named after the judge who heads it, is investigating “state capture” during Zuma’s tenure.

Zuma’s initial imprisonment sparked a series of violent protests in which more than 350 people died.

Despite being on parole on grounds of ill health Zuma launched a new book on Sunday.

–iol

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