South Africa: Zuma ordered back to prison, what happens next?

By The Africa Report
Posted on Wednesday, 15 December 2021 10:37

Former president Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg, South Africa, 19 July 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The former South African president Jacob Zuma has been ordered back to jail, after his medical parole was ruled illegal by the Gauteng High Court.

The court ruled unlawful the decision to place former president Jacob Zuma on medical parole taken by National Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser.

Arthur Fraser is a former spy chief, put into the position by Jacob Zuma, and moved to Correctional Services by Cyril Ramaphosa.

“It is declared that the time [Zuma] was out of jail on medical parole should not be counted for the fulfilment of [Zuma’s] sentence of 15 months imposed by the Constitutional Court” announced the Gauteng High Court this morning.

“It is hereby directed that the third Respondent [Jacob Zuma] be returned to the custody of the Department of Correctional Services to serve out the remainder of his sentence of imprisonment”.

Courts have spoken, what next?

All eyes now turn to the political ramifications of the judgement.

In July 2021, after Jacob Zuma was imprisoned for 15 months for contempt of court, violence erupted in his home province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, and in Johannesburg.

Over 300 died,  1,200 people were arrested, and over $1bn of damage was done to property.

Some analysts believe the timing – just before the holidays, with many people travelling around the country — will make it harder to organise protests.

But Nkosentsha Shezi, a core Zuma ally and key member of the ‘Radical Economic Transformation’ faction of the ANC, told reporters: “I cannot predict what will happen, but I can promise you that I, together with my comrades will defend Zuma and even the last time, it was his choice to go to prison and bypass us. I hope he will not do that because we will forever be ready, even if it means dying in defense of our ideals, we will do so”.

Carl Niehaus, another close Zuma ally, cleverly appropriates the language of ‘state capture’ to accuse the courts of bias. The term was first used in South African political discourse to explain the relationship between the disgraced Gupta brothers and Jacob Zuma’s administration.

Opposition DA says action justified

Justice Keoagile Elias Matojane of the constitutional court said: “The DA (Democratic Alliance), in support of their review application, refers to a Sunday Times article of 17 October 2021 reporting that [Zuma] met with his political allies Carl Niehaus (a former staffer at Luthuli house) and Dudu Myeni (the former chair of SAA) at the Sibaya Casino on the 15 October 2021. [Zuma] also addressed his supporters at a virtual prayer meeting on 14 October 2021. As determined by the Board, [Zuma] is not terminally ill or severely incapacitated and seems to be living a normal life.”

The Democratic Alliance, the opposition party who brought the case against the Department of Correctional Services, is feeling vindicated, says leader John Steenhuisen.

“I have no doubt that Mr Zuma and perhaps Arthur Fraser will now appeal this judgment and it will go to the SCA [Supreme Court of Appeal] and we will proceed from there. I have no desire to put a 79-year-old man into prison but he did take an oath to uphold the Constitution and we are all bound by that and no one is above the law”, Helen Suzman Foundation director Francis Antonie told reporters.

more on this story as it develops

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