Zuma's medical parole: Court applications mount

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Former South African president Jacob Zuma addresses the media in his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Former South African president Jacob Zuma addresses the media in his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Emmanuel Croset/AFP
  • The Helen Suzman Foundation has launched an urgent court application to have Jacob Zuma's medical parole reviewed and set aside.
  • The foundation has also requested the reasons for the medical parole decision.
  • The DA has also filed an urgent application to have the parole decision reviewed and set aside, and lobby group AfriForum is set to file its papers soon.

The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and DA have filed urgent court applications to have former president Jacob Zuma's medical parole reviewed and set aside.

And lobby group AfriForum is not far behind with its urgent application to have the decision set aside, and it is expected to file court papers on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the Department of Correctional Services announced that Zuma had secured medical parole after serving a fraction of his 15-month sentence at the Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal. He was jailed for contempt of court after he refused to appear before the state capture commission.

Last week, during an interview with SABC, National Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser revealed that he decided to release Zuma even though the Medical Parole Advisory Board had not approved his release on medical parole.

This prompted AfriForum and the Helen Suzman Foundation to write to Fraser to demand information about the release.

Letters to Fraser

The foundation wrote to Fraser last week to request the record of and reasons for his decision, but Fraser did not respond by Monday – the deadline given to him. The foundation said the decision was "shrouded in secrecy".

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AfriForum also sent a lawyer's letter to the national commissioner to ask for information about the decision as well as a copy of the medical report that recommended the parole. The lobby group said it would also launched a legal application if Fraser did not respond by 10 September. In a statement on Monday, AfriForum said Fraser did not respond.

Urgent applications

The HSF has since launched its two-part urgent application before the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. In the first part, it seeks the record of and reasons for the decision and in the second part, it is aiming to have the decision set aside.

In his founding affidavit, foundation director Francis Antonie said the HSF participated in the Constitutional Court litigation relating to Zuma's failure to appear before the Zondo Commission.

"The culmination of that sorry saga was the court declaring Zuma to be guilty of the crime of contempt of court and sentencing Zuma to 15 months imprisonment. The national commissioner's decision appears to undermine the Constitutional Court's order. As a party to that order, the HSF has standing to review the national commissioner's decision."

"Even if the national commissioner's decision is reviewed and set aside… the interviewing time that [occurred before] Zuma [was] unlawfully released on medical parole may still count towards his sentence. If so, then Zuma would have benefitted from an unlawful reduction of his sentence," the affidavit said.

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The DA contended in its application that there was evidence that Fraser violated correctional services legislation and the Constitution when he rubber-stamped the former president's release.

AfriForum is expected to file its urgent application to have the medical parole decision set aside.

Ernst Roets, head of policy and action at the organisation, said the matter was of national importance and that it would be a shame if people were treated favourably on the basis of their political prestige.

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"If it is true that the former president is terminally ill or in any other way complies with the provisions of the law, then there is no problem with his medical parole. However, everything the Department of Correctional Services has done and said in the past week indicates that there was political interference here that did not comply with the provisions of the law," Roets said.

"The allegations that President Cyril Ramaphosa was involved in the decision to release Zuma sends a clear message that the president is not serious about tackling and stopping corruption and crime in the government as well as the ruling party."

Roets was referring to reports that Ramaphosa allegedly gave Fraser the green light to authorise the release on controversial parole grounds.

This was according to a City Press report in which sources have been quoted saying that Fraser consulted Ramaphosa before deciding to release Zuma.

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