South African court orders ex-president to be returned to prison

The Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa ruled on Monday that the September 2021 decision to parole former President Jacob Zuma on health grounds was illegal and he must return to prison to serve his sentence.

“The South African Department of Corrections (DIA)’s decision to grant Zuma parole was illegal,” the appeals court judge said. “According to current law, Zuma has not yet completed his sentence.”

South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal has ruled today in a lawsuit by Zuma challenging the Pretoria High Court’s ruling last December on the DIU’s decision to release the former South African president on parole on health grounds. It is not yet clear what further action Zuma’s lawyers can take to keep him back behind bars.

On June 29, 2021, the Constitutional Court (CC) of South Africa found Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months in prison, satisfying the claim of a special commission chaired by the country’s Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. He accused Zuma of refusing to appear before the commission to testify and of disrespecting the Constitutional Court. The commission investigated the facts of corruption in the highest echelons of power in South Africa during the presidency of Zuma in 2009-2018.

The former president began serving his term on July 8 last year. However, on August 6, he was transferred to one of the hospitals of the Ministry of Defense, where he was operated on on August 15. Zuma’s lawyers immediately petitioned for his parole on medical grounds. The special commission spoke out against it, but the leadership of the DIU on September 5 ordered the release of the ex-president. Zuma, 79, spent a little over a month in prison and almost a month in the hospital.

The former head of state is also a defendant in a trial in the High Court of KwaZulu-Natal. Zuma and the French military-industrial group Thales are accused of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering in a defense contract in the 90s.