- ANC presidential hopeful Zweli Mkhize has criticised former president Jacob Zuma's possible return to prison.
- Mkhize said Zuma was too old to return to prison.
- While addressing a political lecture in Katlehong, Gauteng, Mkhize said Zuma's possible return to prison showed a lack of compassion by the country's leadership.
ANC presidential hopeful Zweli Mkhize has weighed in on former president Jacob Zuma's impending return to prison, describing it as painful and an unnecessary punishment for an 80 year old.
Mkhize gave a political lecture in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, on Wednesday a day after he was announced as a nominee for the ANC presidency.
He equated the recent anger about the parole release of SACP leader Chris Hani's killer Janusz Walus with Zuma's possible return to prison.
The Constitutional Court ruled Walus should be released on parole within 10 days.
On the same day, a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment found Zuma's early release on parole in 2021 unlawful. The former president may have to return to prison and complete his 15-month sentence. He only served three months of this sentence.
Mkhize said these two incidents were a painful reminder of the possible moral bankruptcy of the country.
"People don't understand the psyche of South Africans that this [Hani's assassination in 1993] was the worse travesty of justice to us. We feel the pain that Ma Limpho [Hani's widow] is feeling.
"It is painful, and it is happening at a painful time when one [Walus] is being taken out, and president Zuma is supposed to go in. You see, now it's painful," Mkhize told a packed community hall.
He attempted to qualify his defence for Zuma while also saying he respected the rule of law.
"We are not arguing about whether there was something wrong with parole. That's for the lawyers and the judges. What hits us is what we feel.
"Don't misunderstand us. We voted for the Constitution, and we support the law. No one is above the law. But we are also a compassionate South Africa that should understand the challenges and help us reconcile," Mkhize said.
"I still don't understand what it would mean to take an 80-year-old man and take him back to prison. I respect the courts and the law. If president Zuma was in prison and he was turning 80, he would be told to get out of prison. Now he must go back to prison."
Mkhize recalled how Zuma's prison sentence had been partly blamed for the July unrest in 2021, which saw widespread looting in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
"You cannot have a leadership that fails to understand the psyche of its people. You have a leadership that's not in touch. You get the wrong diagnosis like a doctor who gives you treatment for a headache while you have a tummy ache," Mkhize said to loud applause.