The public deserves to know the terms of former president Jacob Zuma’s medical parole, especially after his Durban trip, which raised eyebrows at the weekend.
In the interest of transparency, the department of correctional services must release the parole conditions so that when he is seen in public the masses will know he is not violating them or getting preferential treatment.
We are interested in conditions he must abide by at home, not his health condition, which is confidential, as some might argue.
Zuma, who was granted medical parole, was seen for the first time in public since his release at Sibaya Casino in Durban on Friday with political allies Carl Niehause and former SAA chair Dudu Myeni.
Last month, he was released from his 15-month sentence for contempt of court after he failed to appear before the state capture commission as ordered by the Constitutional Court. The former statesman is currently serving the remainder of his jail term in the “system of community corrections”.
Department of correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said Zuma had requested permission to leave his Nkandla home to leave town and this was approved by his monitoring official.
However, Zuma’s Durban trip was met with surprise and questions from the public, as when he was released we were told the Estcourt correctional facility could not take care of him as he was sick. And just the day before he was spotted he had declined to attend a prayer session in his honour citing “strict parole conditions”.
So what was so pressing in Durban that led to the conditions being eased?
This was a deja vu moment for SA as Zuma’s former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, was also released on medical parole after a medical report said he was terminally ill but was seen playing a game of golf a few months later.
It has only been a month since Zuma was released on parole against the medical parole advisory board that “did not approve medical parole” as the former president was “in a stable condition”. And, already he is seen in public going about his own business.
Granted, he had permission as the department says, but that is not enough for the public to not be outraged and suspicious of preferential treatment. His public appearance so soon came across as someone who is making a mockery of the justice system.
Justice was said to have been served and a strong message was sent to the masses that nobody is above the law when he was sent to prison, but it also has to be seen to be served till the end.
Otherwise, such actions also taint the department’s reputation and credibility, and releasing the conditions of the Zuma medical parole might be their only chance as restoring the public’s trust.