How Zuma went from not being ill, hospitalised for a routine check-up, to medical parole

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Former president Jacob Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma.
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  • On Sunday, former president Jacob Zuma was placed on medical parole.
  • Less than a month earlier, he was hospitalised for a routine check-up.
  • At the time, the Zuma Foundation said he was not ill, but had been due for a check-up.

Within a month, imprisoned former president Jacob Zuma went from not being ill, then hospitalised for a routine check-up, to being placed on medical parole.

On Sunday, 4 September, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) announced that Zuma had been placed on medical parole following a report it had received. 

Zuma was, in August, admitted to a hospital outside the Estcourt Correctional Centre, where he was serving a 15-month sentence. 

According to a statement by the department, apart from being terminally ill and physically incapacitated, inmates suffering from an illness that severely limits their daily activity or self-care can also be considered for medical parole.

READ | Jacob Zuma placed on medical parole

The statement, which did not specify whether Zuma was terminally ill, physically incapacitated or suffering an illness that severely limits his daily activity or self-care, said the former president would complete the remainder of the sentence in the system of community corrections.

It means that Zuma will have to comply with a specific set of conditions and be under supervision until his sentence expires. 

The Constitutional Court sentenced Zuma to 15 months imprisonment for contempt of court after he refused to testify before the State Capture Inquiry. 

READ | Zuma not ill, looking forward to court appearance next week - Zuma Foundation

He had been imprisoned at the Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal and had only served two months of his sentence before being granted medical parole. 

Routine check-up and not ill 

Zuma's placement on medical parole stands in stark contradiction to what his foundation said less than a month earlier. 

On 6 August, DCS said Zuma had been admitted to an outside hospital for medical observation.  

DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said:

A routine observation prompted that Mr Zuma be taken for in-hospitalisation.

This aligned with what the Jacob Zuma Foundation had said about the former president being hospitalised. 

News24 previously reported that foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi said Zuma was taken to hospital for his "normal annual medical check-up".

"Whether in prison or not, he would have been due for that check-up," Manyi said. 

Manyi added that Zuma was not ill and that the foundation would issue a statement once the check-up was completed and a medical report was received.

At the time, the foundation said Zuma was looking forward to his court appearance in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg for his plea hearing in the fraud and corruption case related to the arms deal. 

According to Manyi, the hospital admission was not a ploy aimed at missing the court appearance. He added that Zuma could not afford to be sick because he had a lot to share in court. 

Zuma still hospitalised 

However, Zuma would subsequently not attend the court appearance - and the matter was postponed because the former president was still in hospital. 

Judge Piet Koen ordered that the doctors treating Zuma provide a medical report to detail his fitness to attend court or stand trial by 20 August. 

The court further directed that the State could appoint a doctor of its choice to examine the former president.

READ | Zuma faces another contempt charge if he does not allow NPA doctors to examine him - experts

In the meantime, the DCS confirmed on 14 August that Zuma underwent a surgical procedure, and there were other procedures scheduled for the coming days.

On 23 August, News24 reported that Zuma's military doctors had failed to meet a 20 August court deadline to hand over their medical report on his fitness to stand trial.

Instead, Zuma's doctors asked to file the report by 27 August.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) reportedly did not agree to this and rejected their reasons for the extension. 

On 27 August, the NPA confirmed that the medical report had been filed, but would make no further comment on the matter. 

On 31 August, News24 reported that Zuma had refused to be examined by NPA-appointed doctors, according to his foundation

It was alleged that Zuma refused because he was tired of claims of his ill-health being treated with distrust.

The NPA declined to comment. 

Because Zuma's medical report is confidential, it is not known whether Zuma had fallen ill during his routine check-up or if the check-up had discovered health issues. 

The corruption case is expected back in court on 9 September. 

After a protracted legal battle, Zuma was charged with 16 counts of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering related to the 783 payments he allegedly received from his former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, and a R500 000-a-year bribe that the State claims Shaik facilitated for him from French arms company, Thales.

Thales is also on trial as Zuma's co-accused.

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