The South African Supreme Court of Appeal has declared that ex-President Jacob Zuma must return to prison to serve his term for contempt of court, calling his early release on medical parole “unlawful.”
For failing to appear before a government inquiry into widespread wrongdoing during his almost decade-long presidency (which ended in 2018 when current Cyril Ramaphosa replaced him), Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison last year.
Zuma received medical parole in September 2021 and was freed from prison a few months later. In December, however, the Supreme Court reversed the parole judgement and sent him back to prison.
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On Monday, a month after the department of correctional services claimed Zuma’s prison sentence had finished, a judge ruled on his appeal.
In other words, Mr Zuma’s term has yet to expire under the law. According to the Supreme Court of Appeal’s ruling, he must return to the Escourt Correctional Centre.
The Department of Justice argued that Zuma’s sentence had expired while his appeal was still being heard, but the court rejected that argument.
It also concluded that the former national commissioner of correctional services had acted illegally when he granted Zuma medical parole against the advice of the Medical Parole Advisory Board.
The commissioner’s ruling was invalid and violated the Constitution on every possible ground. The verdict ruled the high court was correct to throw it out.
A message left with the Jacob Zuma Foundation went unanswered for some time. The department of correctional services has said that it is reviewing the ruling and will issue a response later.
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