Overcrowded prisons reason to free Zuma ‘does not fool anyone’, says DA

Former president Jacob Zuma has been released under a special remission for low-risk prisoners granted by President Cyril Ramaphosa. File Picture: Bongani Mbatha / African News Agency/ ANA

Former president Jacob Zuma has been released under a special remission for low-risk prisoners granted by President Cyril Ramaphosa. File Picture: Bongani Mbatha / African News Agency/ ANA

Published Aug 11, 2023


Nobody was fooled by the Department of Correctional Services’ (DCS) decision to free former president Jacob Zuma via a special remission granted by President Cyril Ramaphosa for low-risk prisoners on the basis of overcrowding, the DA said on Friday.

AfriForum, who along with the DA, had taken the Zuma medical parole matter to court, said they would be seeking legal advice on the matter, but said it showed that senior ANC leaders were above the law.

The Supreme Court of Appeal found that a decision to place Zuma on medical parole was unlawful and unconstitutional. It also ordered Zuma to return to the Estcourt Correctional Centre to finish serving his sentence.

Acting Correctional Services Commissioner Makgothi Thobakgale announced on Friday that Zuma had checked into the Estcourt Correctional Centre at 6am before he was granted the special remission due to overcrowding at prison facilities.

Over 9,000 prisoners will be released in line with the special remission granted by Ramaphosa. Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said the process of the special remission for non-violent offenders began in April this year. Zuma was the first offender to benefit from the process.

DA member of Parliament (MP) and spokesperson on justice, Glynnis Breytenbach, said the decision was a “disgrace”.

“The minister suggesting that this process began in April is a joke, this has nothing to do with overcrowding in prisons. The timing of this does not fool anyone,” Breytenbach said in an interview with SABC News.

“Of course, Mr Ramaphosa will be shocked and say he is acting on the advice of his ministers,” she said.

She said the decision to release Zuma under the pretence of prison overcrowding was special treatment for an ANC leader, and she described the decision as “sly and devious manipulation of the justice system”.

She said the community corrections system which the 9,000 prisoners would be released under, was under resourced and was barely functional.

“It's just smoke and mirrors, no one is going to be fooled by this nonsense,” said Breytenbach.

AfriForum spokesperson Ernst van Zyl said they would meet with their legal team to assess the decision.

“We consider this decision by the DCS an insult to justice and the rule of law. This just goes to show that if you are an ANC cadre, you are protected.

“This appears to be a smokescreen to help powerful ANC politicians escape justice,” he said.

Van Zyl said the message that was being sent was that South Africa was not serious about its promise of equality before the law.

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba said they were rejecting the decision out of hand.

“ActionSA rejects with contempt President Ramaphosa’s ‘political solution’ to former president Zuma’s re-incarceration, which has seen the release of 9,488 criminals back into society to save Zuma from serving further prison time.

“This move makes a mockery of the criminal justice system in South Africa by demonstrating once again that President Ramaphosa puts the ANC first and the country second,” he said.

Mashaba said the justice system relied on the principle of ensuring that there are consequences for unlawful acts.

“President Zuma knowingly and deliberately defied our Apex Court, and publicly demonstrated his disdain for the legal system.

“Instead of affirming the supremacy of the rule of law in South Africa by ensuring that Zuma accounts for these actions, President Ramaphosa’s government has bent over backwards to allow him to evade the consequences of these actions,” said Mashaba.

Mashaba said the release of the over 9,000 non-violent prisoners who would be released was just a “guise to save Zuma from serving another day in prison”.