The JGZ Foundation has confirmed that former president Jacob Zuma is at home.
This is after the ex-president reported to the Estcourt Correctional Facility and was released on Special Remission.
Zuma is one of over 9000 beneficiaries of the special remission programme.
“President Zuma is at home. At this point, he is in consultation with his legal team. We hope to issue a statement later, not now,” said JGZ Foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi.
The National Commissioner of Correctional Services, Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale, and Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, made the announcement in Pretoria this morning.
Thobakgale said having studied the judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), submissions by interested parties, legal advice(s) and also guided by the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998, as the National Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, he has exercised his discretion as per the SCA Judgement, in making a decision whether or not to take into account the period served under Community Corrections by Zuma.
He said the Supreme Court of Appeal found that the National Commissioner’s decision to place Zuma on medical parole was unlawful and unconstitutional. This finding rendered everything done in terms of the said decision null and void. The SCA further stated that once its order in the appeal is handed down, Zuma's position, as it was prior to his release on medical parole, would be reinstated. It further stated that, in law, Zuma has not finished serving his sentence and that he must return to the Estcourt Correctional Centre to do so.
Zuma was sentenced to 15-month prison sentence in 2021 for contempt of court amid failing to appear before the State Capture Commission. He served two months at the correctional facility.
Former commissioner Arthur Fraser released Zuma on medical parole, which was declared unlawful.
Thobakgale said the Constitutional Court decided to leave the said decision intact.
“Although the SCA and the High Court both consider the decision of the then National Commissioner as unlawful, Zuma was not discharged (released), but he was placed under community corrections where he continued serving his sentence, under strict Conditions,” said Thobakgale.
He said parole in South Africa is a form of punishment which is served by an inmate within the system of community corrections in terms of Chapter VI of the Correctional Services Act of 1998.
“When Zuma left from a medical hospital upon placement on medical parole, he was continuously under community corrections serving his sentence. He was never a free man with effect from 8 July 2021. In compliance with the SCA judgment, Zuma did report back at Estcourt Correctional Centre.
“A consideration has been made as per legislation, including processes that were already unfolding in the management of correctional services. The administrative procedures have ensued, and Zuma has been processed accordingly. I have therefore advised the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services of my decision,” said Thobakgale.
Lamola said the decision followed all the processes in line with the law and the Constitution. ‘’We believe that the president took this decision in line with the Constitution,” said Lamola.
He announced that President Cyril Ramaphosa had approved the remission of non-violent offenders in South Africa.
“There are 212,286 inmates, including 9,351 foreign nationals, managed by the Department of Correctional Services across the country's 243 correctional centres and 218 community centres,” said Lamola.
He said, unfortunately, the current occupancy rate is 143%, with the overcrowding rate at 43.06%. The recent loss of 3024 beds at Kutama Sinthumule due to a fire means that overcrowding will increase by 4%, raising the overcrowding rate to 47.06% and, in turn, the occupancy rate will increase 147%.
“This poses a direct threat to inmate health, security, and management, and it could lead to a surge in gangsterism. More importantly, it hampers the department's ability to provide development and rehabilitation programmes.
“The remission of sentences is a crucial aspect of our justice system, and Section 84 (2) (J) of the Constitution enables it. However, it's important to note that certain offenders, such as those convicted of sexual offences, tampering with essential infrastructure, serving life sentences, and being declared dangerous criminals, are excluded from this criterion of this special remission. Despite this, low-risk offenders in these categories may still be eligible for a 12-month remission,” Lamola said.
He said offenders convicted of non-violent and non-sexual crimes would be eligible for up to 24 months of remission after completing the pre-release programme and risk assessment and providing fingerprints and DNA samples for comparison to the South African Police Service database.
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said what happened today is nothing short of a disgrace and a joke and made a complete mockery of the justice system in South Africa.
“This decision was clearly only to benefit Zuma. I am quite sure that he is the first person to benefit from the remission process. He walked in and out as an absolute joke. It is an insult to every South African, and it underscores that the ANC has no regard for the rule of law,” said Breytenbach.
She said they would immediately request records of the decision to try and determine as accurately as they could, saying it was probably not an honest process.
Legal expert Dr Tsietsi Ramatsekisa said the timing of this decision may raise eyebrows to members of the public to say, “are we having a justice or correction system that does not treat people equally”.
He said when you look at it, they have tried to close the loopholes by readmitting Zuma into their facility and releasing him very quickly using this programme.
“Remember when he was initially released, it was on medical parole, now they have changed using a different system in order to justify their decision,” said Ramatsekisa.
Civil organisation group AfriForum, which was one of the applicants in this case, asked for an urgent review of Zuma’s medical parole and said their legal team would look into the decision.
“Zuma’s case once again proofs that as long as the ANC is in power, you can rest assured that anyone close to the party is above the law,” said AfriForum spokesperson Ernst van Zyl.
ANC national spokesperson Mahlengy Bhengu-Motsiri said the party welcomed the decision.
“South Africans know that this country enjoys very robust judicial law enforcement system architecture, and we are comfortable that due processes were followed. We welcome the remission decision. We also note the fact that Zuma did get processed accordingly, as required at a correctional facility,” said Bhengu-Motsiri.