The manner in which former president Jacob Zuma was granted medical parole leaves more questions than answers.
Earlier this week on this page, we called for transparency regarding the process, which led to the decision to release Zuma on medical parole. It has since come to light that the medical parole advisory board had recommended Zuma should not be released on medical parole as he was in a stable condition.
However, correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser told SABC on Wednesday night that he had rescinded that recommendation. “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.
Fraser emphasised that his action was “legal and procedural”. However, the board made up of experts said Zuma was stable and denied that he be released, so, on what basis did Fraser decide he must be released? There were different views from experts yesterday on whether Fraser was empowered to take this decision, can the minister explain to the public which act was followed here?
It is important to clarify the decision was above board as there is a perception out there that Zuma is close to Fraser, but he denied this when asked if he was a “Zuma person” by the SABC.
Meanwhile, the fast manner in which the Zuma medical parole was handled has revealed that correctional services and the board can work quickly. Then, there is no need for many prisoners to die in custody while waiting on the outcome of their applications to be released on medical parole.
Statistics released in 2019 by the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS), revealed that more than 550 die in SA prisons yearly. It was using data collected from 2015 to 2018. The JICS said the reason for the deaths ranged from meningitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, renal failure to pulmonary diseases. But the report also noted the majority of prisoners had died killing each other.
The department’s own presentation to parliament’s portfolio committee in 2014, said 276 medical parole applications had been received in 2013, 66 were approved, 132 were not and 23 prisoners died during the process, while 21 were still being reviewed and 40 had not been evaluated.
We are all equal before the law, let the rest of the gravely ill inmates’ matters be handled with the same speed as was the case with the former president.