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Zuma may go back to jail after ConCourt refuses to hear correctional services’ appeal

Lesotho Times

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  • The Constitutional Court did not grant the Department of Correctional Services leave to appeal the Supreme Court of Appeal’s (SCA) decision that former president Jacob Zuma must go back to jail.
  • The SCA upheld the High Court ruling that former prison boss Arthur Fraser’s decision to grant Zuma medical parole was unlawful.
  • Zuma received a 15-month sentence for defying the Constitutional Court’s order to appear before the Zondo Commission, but only served two months before Fraser released him.

The Constitutional Court has dismissed the Department of Correctional Services’ application for leave to appeal a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling that former president Jacob Zuma must go back to prison.

In the ruling handed down on Thursday, the apex court found the department’s appeal “bears no reasonable prospect of success” and dismissed the application with costs.

Zuma missed the deadline to appeal the SCA ruling but filed an application for leave to intervene.

The apex court dismissed this, also with costs, as there would not be an appeal.

However, hardly two months later, he was released on medical parole after the then-national commissioner of correctional services, Arthur Fraser, overruled the Medical Parole Advisory Board’s (MPAB) recommendation that the former president did not qualify for it.

The DA, AfriForum and Helen Suzman Foundation asked the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to review Fraser’s decision and set it aside.

Judge Elias Matojane found the decision was unlawful.

He ordered that Zuma should return to prison to complete the 15-month sentence.

In December 2021, Matojane found an error of law influenced Fraser into believing he was entitled to grant medical parole to Zuma, when the MPAB found the former president did not meet the necessary requirements.

Matojane said Zuma’s return to prison would “not impact him unfairly, as there is no suggestion that he is an innocent party”.

The judge added the former president had defied the Zondo Commission, judiciary, and rule of law, and was resolute in his refusal to participate in the commission’s proceedings.

Matojane also stated Zuma continued to “attack the Constitutional Court while unlawfully benefitting from a lesser punishment than what the Constitutional Court has imposed”.

He granted Zuma and the department leave to appeal his ruling, and they took the matter to the SCA.

But in a unanimous judgment written by Judge Tati Makgoka, the SCA agreed with the High Court that Fraser’s decision was unlawful and unconstitutional.

This meant Zuma “has not finished serving his sentence” for contempt of the Constitutional Court, the SCA found.

It said:

He must return to the Estcourt Correctional Centre to do so. Whether the time spent by Mr Zuma on unlawfully granted medical parole should be taken into account in determining the remaining period of his incarceration, is not a matter for this court to decide.

“It is a matter to be considered by the commissioner [Makgothi Thobakgale]. If he is empowered by law to do so, the commissioner might take that period into account in determining any application or grounds for release.”

After the Constitutional Court’s decision was handed down, the department said in a statement it was “studying the Constitutional Court judgment for the review application in relation to the medical parole placement for the former president, Mr Jacob Zuma”.

“DCS [Department of Correctional Services] is seeking legal advice and will comment further in due course,” the statement read.

“It is not my intention to hijack the DCS space in the public discourse,” he said in a message to the media.

ALSO READ | Zuma praises Fraser for saving his life, tells ConCourt he ‘faced death itself in prison’

In November last year, when asked at a media briefing about his health, Zuma reportedly responded: “What’s wrong with the health, just tell me, what’s wrong with the health? Looking at me, am I in the bed lying in a hospital?”

Last week, he visited Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, where he gave a “special address” to the first African Voluntary Carbon Credits Market Forum and posed with a giant cheque for a donation of two million “emission reduction units”.

Zuma was representing an organisation called the Africa Belarus Trade Organisation, on whose board he serves.

The former president was represented by advocate Dali Mpofu SC in this court case.

Meanwhile, DA leader John Steenhuisen welcomed the ruling as a victory for the country’s rule of law.

He said the party’s legal team would write to Zuma to ask that he surrender himself to the authorities.

Steenhuisen added the DA would escalate its letter to the commissioner of correctional services, Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale, should the former president fail to comply.

“Should Mr Zuma fail to adhere to this request, we will write to the national commissioner for correctional services, Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale, calling for him to arrest Mr Zuma and return him to [the] Estcourt Correctional Centre. If either party fails to comply, they will be in contempt of court,” he said.

Steenhuisen added the ruling served as a reminder for corrupt leaders in the ruling party abuse of medical parole and violence would not undermine the rule of law.

– News24