Legal analyst, Reitumetsi Phiri, says returning to jail may not be off the cards yet for former President Jacob Zuma. Friday marked the end of the former president’s 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court.
Last year, the Constitutional Court sentenced Zuma for failing to continue appearing before the State Capture Commission.
Zuma was elated after the Department of Correctional Services confirmed that he had been removed from the department’s system.
“Mr Zuma’s 15-month sentence expired on Friday the 7th of October 2022. It has to be remembered that Mr Zuma was sentenced by the Constitutional Court to 15 months’ imprisonment on the 29th of June 2021. As a result, he had to be admitted to Escourt Correctional Services on the 8th of July 2021, but due to the seriousness of his medical condition, medical parole was therefore confirmed on the 5th of September 2021. As a department, we are able to affirm that Mr Zuma did comply with his medical parole placement conditions as was being monitored by our corrections (sic).”
Zuma may not be off the hook yet:
Zuma breathed a sigh of relief on hearing of his release from the Department of Correctional Services system. Zuma has likened the end of his 15-month sentence, much of it spent at home, to his release from Robben Island in 1973.
He’s criticised the Constitutional Court for handing down the sentence without a trial.
The 80-year-old, who’s expressed ambitions to be the ANC’s next national chairperson at the party’s 55th Elective Conference, has expressed relief at his renewed freedom.
In a statement, Zuma pledged his support for all who stood by him, adding that they had become victims as a result of their loyalty.
Jacob Zuma Foundation Spokesperson, Mzwanele Manyi, says the South African public has been yearning to hear the former president’s voice after his imprisonment.
“He was incarcerated without a trial in a very dubious judgment which also denied him a few things. It denied him a right to appeal the sentence, it also denied him the right to mitigate the jail term as it were. So indeed, today marks that day when all of that dark cloud is behind us now and from now onwards, his excellency President Zuma is a free man. He can participate in anything he wants to participate in from a to z. The people out there have been yearning for his voice.”
But there is still a court order declaring that Zuma has to return to jail.
The matter came to the fore again during the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviews where Judge Elias Matojane was interviewed for a position at the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Last year, Matojane declared that the decision by former National Correctional Services Commissioner, Arthur Fraser, to grant Zuma medical parole was unlawful.
He also ordered that Zuma return to jail and that the time he had spent out of jail, on medical parole, would not count towards his sentence.
This matter was hinted at by EFF Leader, Julius Malema, who questioned the benefit of imprisoning the elderly in an exchange that Matojane would not be drawn on.
“In the rehabilitation of these inmates and reintegrating them to society, what would the society benefit if we were to incarcerate an 80-year-old, rehabilitate and reintegrate him into society because by the time he gets back into society, he is no longer a human, they are remains. If I am wrong they will say so.”
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) is considering the matter and with this order still hovering over the former president’s head, it seems there is a plethora of outcomes that can emerge from the appeals court.
Legal analyst, Reitumetsi Phiri says there is a chance of Zuma going back to jail.
“In essence, there is still a valid court order, that court order has not yet been set aside. It has not been rescinded or overturned on appeal. So, there is still a court order that obliges Zuma to go to jail and that his sentence or any time that he’s spent outside of jail not be counted towards the reduction of his sentence,” says Phiri.
“The Supreme Court of Appeal obviously has to now determine whether it will uphold that order, in which even if it does then we will have to see the former president return to jail, or whether it will overturn that order and say it was wrong and that there was no reason to set aside or declare unlawful the conduct of the commissioner, in which event, Mr Zuma will remain free. And the third option that the Supreme Court of Appeal has is to declare the Correctional Services Commissioner’s decision to place Mr Zuma on medical parole as unlawful, but they could fashion a different remedy which may not involve Mr Zuma going back to jail.”
Despite this, the former president has not been shy to celebrate the latest developments.
Zuma free after a 15-month sentence ends: