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.1 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.2 Zuma missed the deadline to appeal the SCA ruling but filed an application for leave to intervene.3 Zuma missed the deadline to appeal the SCA ruling but filed an application for leave to intervene.4 The SCA dismissed this, also with costs, as there would be an appeal.5 Zuma was jailed in July 2021 for 15 months for contempt of the Constitutional Court after he refused to obey an order to appear before the Zondo Commission.6
Zuma has brought this on himself by refusing to go to court to answer questions pertaining to state capture in court. Had he gone before the State Capture Inquiry Commission and answered the questions that needed to be answered, he would not have suffered the risk of going to prison. Now because he was found to be in contempt of court he should answer for that.
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This means the November judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) stands. In that judgment, the SCA court said: “Mr Zuma, in law, has not finished serving his sentence. He must return to the Estcourt Correctional Centre to do so.” But how long he stays there was not a matter for the courts to decide, said the SCA judgment. This was “a matter to be considered by the commissioner” of correctional services. “If he is empowered in law to do so, the commissioner might take [the period already spent on medical parole] into account in determining any application or grounds for release,” said SCA Justice Tati Makgoka. The former president was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment by the Constitutional Court for contempt after he breached its order to obey the summons of the state capture commission. After serving less than two months, he was granted medical parole by Arthur Fraser, the former national commissioner of correctional services — despite not being recommended for it by the medical parole board. The decision was immediately challenged in the high court by the DA, the Helen Suzman Foundation and AfriForum. Their application was successful in the high court and was partially upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeal. The high court’s order had declared that the time Zuma had spent on medical parole should not be counted as part of his sentence. (Con Court rejects Zuma parole which could see him back in prison)
All this started two years ago when Zuma refused to obey the Summons to appear before the State Capture Commission for Inquiry. He seems to be in a healthy state then and in a healthy state now. Zuma also acted contemptuously in court over his refusal to appear and was justly convicted for doing so. The work of the opposition and civil society groups to see that this matter is followed through to the end was justified. These are the Democratic Alliance, AfriForum and the Helen Suzman Foundation. They have ensured that transparency and accountability be upheld and that the rule of law be respected. Every citizen even a high profile politician or former president should be regarded as equal before the law. His medical parole is an irrelevant matter and he should complete his 15 month sentence.
Since he was never recommended for his parole by the Medical Parole Board he should return to carry out his sentence. Zuma still should answer for his actions during the State Capture era and state why he should not have to go on trial. If he is not guilty then he has nothing to hide. As events unfold the truth will be revealed. Why does Zuma want to dodge having his day in court then be jailed for not attending, only to be freed on medical parole? Will we ever get to see him being questioned by a judicial commission for whatever role he had in the looting of the state treasury? What does he have to hide if the president (Cyril Ramaphosa) has the power to pardon him? Zuma won’t be allowed to re-enter politics or have a role to play in public life but that seems to be a small price to pay for the wrongdoing he would have committed. If Zuma does serve out the rest of his 15 months in prison, he should finally admit to his actions in state capture and appeal for clemency.