Why Jacob Zuma’s Russia ‘exile’ is less risky for South Africa

Jacob Zuma appears in the South Gauteng high court. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ African News Agency (ANA)

Jacob Zuma appears in the South Gauteng high court. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 15, 2023



Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court upheld the rule of law when it ruled unanimously on Thursday that Jacob Zuma should not have been released from jail, where he had started serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court.

The then National Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser released Zuma two months into a sentence that Zuma had brought on himself. Fraser’s decision was tested in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, which found Fraser had not had the authority to release Zuma on medical parole.

Zuma appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal, the country’s second highest court. When the SCA upheld the decision of the lower court, Zuma reverted to type and appealed once more to the apex court in the land. This week that door slammed resoundingly closed, bringing an end to another unedifying ‒ and cynical ‒ bid by the former president to avoid paying the price of his actions.

But the ruling becomes moot because Zuma is not here. The sprightly octogenarian, who was only last week appearing on behalf of Belarus at the Livingstone carbon conference in Zambia ‒ despite having brought South Africa’s quest for renewable energy to a clattering halt in 2016 ‒ has taken ill. He is now apparently in Russia, seeking medical treatment for an undisclosed medical condition.

It is highly convenient. Our country remains on a knife edge. Two years ago, our divisions were cynically exposed by his backers to almost launch an insurrection, which we are still recovering from. Zuma, though, has given us the best possible solution: the longer he stays in effective self-imposed exile, the less risk there is for us at home.

Equally, he cannot risk returning and being jailed. The rule of law has triumphed. Justice of sorts has been done.

That is about as much as we can ask for at this point.