South Africa: Zuma Freed From Prison on Medical Parole

Former president Jacob Zuma (file photo).
5 September 2021

Cape Town — Former South African president Jacob Zuma is being released from prison on medical parole, two months into a 15-month sentence.

The government's Department of Correctional Services did not reveal the nature of Zuma's medical condition, but said that parole can be granted to "inmates suffering from an illness that severely limits their daily activity or self-care."

He was imprisoned on July 7 for refusing to obey a court order to appear before a commission of inquiry into the government and private sector corruption which flourished during his presidency. His jailing triggered widespread violence in two of the country's provinces.

The 79-year-old was incarcerated in the hospital section of the prison in Estcourt, a town in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. A month later the prisons department said he had been moved to an outside hospital under the care of military doctors.

Since as an ex-president he is entitled to medical care by the military doctors, he is likely to have been in a military hospital for the past month. On August 14, the prisons department reported that he had undergone "a surgical procedure... with other procedures scheduled for the coming days."

The department said in a statement on Sunday that "Medical parole placement for Mr Zuma means that he will complete the remainder of the sentence in the system of community corrections, whereby he must comply with a specific set of conditions and will be subjected to supervision until his sentence expires."

Zuma's medical condition is an issue at his trial on charges of money-laundering, corruption and racketeering over payments he received from a former financial adviser during the 1990s. A military doctor reported to the court in August that Zuma needed "an extensive emergency procedure" which would take about six months to complete. The trial has been postponed pending the filing of further medical reports, including one by doctors appointed by prosecutors.

The treatment of Zuma's financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, after he was jailed for his payments to Zuma caused controversy in 2009 when, two years and four months into a 15-year prison sentence, he was released on medical parole. He was alleged to have a terminal illness but is still alive in 2021.

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