The DA welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to uphold the Gauteng High Court’s finding that former president Jacob Zuma’s medical parole was illegal.
On 10 September 2021, the DA applied to the Gauteng High Court to review and set aside Correctional Services Commissioner Arthur Fraser’s decision to place former president Jacob Zuma on medical parole. Our application resulted in the High Court declaring Mr Zuma’s medical parole unlawful and ordering him to return to prison. The Department of Correctional Services appealed this judgement, unsuccessfully.
Today’s SCA judgement orders that Mr Zuma must return to the Estcourt Correctional Centre to finish serving his prison sentence. But the SCA stopped short of ruling on the matter of whether the time spent by Mr Zuma on unlawfully granted medical parole should be taken into account in determining the remaining period of his incarceration, saying that this is a matter to be considered by the Commissioner.
The SCA did, however, express its disapproval that while this judgement was pending, the Department of Correctional Services released a media statement saying that Mr Zuma had completed his sentence. The SCA rightly pointed out that this pronouncement was premature given that the issue was pending before the court, and that it potentially undermines the judicial process, particularly since the Department of Correctional Services was an appellant in the matter.
It is crucial now that the Commissioner of Correctional Services does the right thing. Zuma must be made to serve his sentence like any ordinary South African would be made to do. The Commissioner should not be swayed by threats of a repeat of the July unrest in KZN last year, which were sparked by Zuma supporters protesting his arrest.
This SCA judgement is a victory for the DA on behalf of the people of South Africa. It is a victory for the rule of law, for the principle of equality before the law, and for accountability, all of which are essential prerequisites for a successful, prosperous society.
The DA will not waver in our defense of these principles. We hope the same can be said for the Commissioner of Correctional Services. Certainly, the same cannot be said for President Ramaphosa who failed to speak out against the decision, now ruled illegal, to grant Mr Zuma medical parole.
To recap, Fraser’s medical parole decision was unlawful for at least two reasons. First, it was taken against the recommendation of the Medical Parole Advisory Board not to grant medical parole to Mr Zuma. Second, it was taken for an ulterior purpose not permitted by section 79 of the Correctional Services Act and Regulations (which govern the granting of medical parole), and not rationally connected to the purpose of medical parole or the information before the Commissioner.
Mr Zuma was imprisoned for contempt of court so serious that it constituted a near-existential threat to the authority of the judicial system. In the words of the Court:
“Indeed, if we do not intervene immediately to send a clear message to the public that this conduct stands to be rebuked in the strongest of terms, there is a real and imminent risk that a mockery will be made of this Court and the judicial process in the eyes of the public. The vigour with which Mr Zuma is peddling his disdain of this Court and the judicial process carries the further risk that he will inspire or incite others to similarly defy this Court, the judicial process and the rule of law.”
If left unchallenged, Fraser’s parole decision would have harmed the court in exactly the same way that Mr Zuma’s contempt of court did. It would have made a mockery of the judicial process, sending the message to everyone that, as long as you are powerful and politically connected, you need not fear punishment for breaking the law. If you are sent to prison for your crimes, you will be let out well before the end of your sentence on “medical parole”.
It is a terrible indictment on President Ramaphosa that he not only failed to speak out against this egregious decision to medically parole Mr Zuma, but that he openly welcomed it. Worse still, he facilitated it by deploying the deeply compromised Arthur Fraser to the position of Commissioner of Correctional Services in the first place.
President Ramaphosa transferred Arthur Fraser from his position as Director-General of the State Security Agency to the post of National Commissioner of Correctional Services in 2018, knowing full well the many crimes Fraser stood accused of, including the parallel intelligence network he set up to serve Mr Zuma’s personal interests.
The president’s ulterior motive for allowing Mr Zuma to be placed on medical parole has become clearer with the benefit of hindsight. It was not only an attempt to placate the Zuma faction of the ANC for the sake of ANC unity, and to avoid another frenzy of mass destruction as happened in KZN in July last year after Mr Zuma was convicted. It was also aimed at stopping the president’s own smallanyana skeletons from tumbling out the Phala Phala closet, since Mr Fraser held the key to that closet.
The Democratic Alliance will continue to use every means at our disposal to protect the Constitution and the rule of law from destruction by the ANC.