ConCourt rejects Zuma parole appeal: He must return to prison

But how long he stays there is not a matter for the courts to decide

Former president Jacob Zuma

Former president Jacob Zuma
Image: Bloomberg

The Constitutional Court has dismissed an application for leave to appeal about former president Jacob Zuma’s medical parole, saying an appeal had “no reasonable prospects of success”.

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.

But the appeal court said “matters concerning how an inmate serves his or her sentence [and] when and how he or she qualifies for and is to be released on parole, quintessentially reside in the province of the executive — the department, in this instance”.

The Constitutional Court’s order on Thursday was made without a hearing and was made by a coram of 10 justices: Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya, Justices Jody Kollapen, Mbuyiseli Madlanga, Stevan Majiedt, Rammaka Mathopo, Nonkosi Mhlantla, Owen Rogers, Leona Theron, Zukisa Tshiqi and acting justice David Van Zyl.