Opposition parties see red after Jacob Zuma granted medical parole

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Sep 6, 2021


Johannesburg - The decision of the Department of Correctional Services to release former president Jacob Zuma has outraged opposition parties who now want Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola to account for his actions.

The decision has outraged Cope’s Dennis Bloem – a former chairperson of the portfolio committee on correctional services while he was still an ANC member before defecting to Cope.

In his reaction, Bloem said the Minister Lamola and the Department of Correctional Services must account to the nation for what informed the decision to release Zuma on medical parole.

“It is totally disgusting that the Correctional Services must make a mockery of our parole system. It is unacceptable and it is very clear that Zuma received preferential treatment ever since he was incarcerated in July.

“Zuma’s co accused Schabir Shaik was also released under questionable medical parole. The minister and the national commissioner must account to the country which informed Zuma’s medical parole,” Bloem said.

He said Minister Lamola – a day after Zuma’s imprisonment, addressed the nation and told it that Zuma would not receive preferential treatment, “look what is happening now.”

Bloem said he was aware of the number of sick inmates who were making countless applications for medical parole but these were allegedly denied.

“Some of them are dying in prison,” Bloem said.

DA leader John Steenhuisen also hit back at Zuma’s medical parole on Sunday night, saying the latest development made a mockery of the Correctional Matters Amendment Act.

He said following the granting of unlawful medical parole to Schabir Shaik in 2009, Parliament’s portfolio committee on correctional services unanimously supported the amendment of Section 79 of the act, to stipulate that the 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 a medical report.

“A report on the health status of any prisoner must be subject to the recommendation by an independent board to confirm, in truth, that a prisoner is indeed deserving of medical parole. Given that Jacob Zuma publicly refused to be examined by an independent medical professional, let alone a medical advisory board, this decision is a violation of the act and therefore unlawful,” Steenhuisen said.

He also said the parole was granted by someone who has close ties with Zuma.

On Sunday, Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said his department was able to confirm that Zuma had been placed on medical parole.

Nxumalo said Section 75(7)(a) of the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998, affords the national commissioner a responsibility to place under correctional supervision or day parole, or grant parole or medical parole to a sentenced offender serving a sentence of incarceration for 24 months or less.

“The national commissioner is also in terms of Section 52, empowered to prescribe conditions of parole. Medical parole’s eligibility for Mr Zuma is impelled by a medical report received by the Department of Correctional Services.

“Apart from being terminally ill and physically incapacitated, inmates suffering from an illness that severely limits their daily activity or self-care can also be considered for medical parole. The risk of reoffending of released inmates must also be low and there must be appropriate arrangements for the inmate’s supervision, care and treatment within the community to which the inmate is to be released to,” he said.

Nxumalo said the medical parole placement for Zuma means that he would complete the remainder of the sentence in the system of community corrections, whereby he must comply with a specific set of conditions and would be subjected to supervision until his sentence expires.

“Medical parole can only be revoked if an offender does not comply with the placement conditions. We want to reiterate that placement on medical parole is an option available to all sentenced offenders provided they meet all the requirements. We appeal to all South Africans to afford Mr Zuma dignity as he continues to receive medical treatment,” Nxumalo said.

In welcoming the decision, Jacob Zuma Foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi told the media that the decision to grant Zuma medical parole was an indication there was “humanness” in the system.

“It shows the precariousness of president Jacob Zuma’s health. The decision was a product of two medical reports. One compiled by the military health services and the other by Correctional Services’ own medical doctors,” Manyi said.