South African court orders former President Jacob Zuma back to jail after ruling medical parole was unlawful

On Monday, November 21, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal declared that the decision to grant former president Jacob Zuma early medical parole was “illegal” and that he should go back to prison to complete his term for contempt of court.

After he disobeyed a court order to testify at a government investigation into widespread corruption during his almost decade-long presidency, which ended in 2018 with the election of incumbent Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison last year.

Zuma was granted medical parole in September 2021 after completing a portion of his term. However, the supreme court overturned the parole judgment in December and mandated that he be sent back to prison.

Zuma appealed that ruling and judgment was delivered on Monday, a month after the department of correctional services said his prison sentence had ended.

“In other words, Mr. Zuma, in law, has not finished serving his sentence. He must return to the Escourt Correctional centre to do so,” the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment read.

The court took issue with the department’s claim that Zuma’s sentence had ended while the appeal was still being heard.

It also found that the decision by the former national commissioner of correctional services to grant Zuma medical parole against the advice of the Medical Parole Advisory Board, a specialist body, was unlawful.

“On any conceivable basis, the commissioner’s decision was unlawful and unconstitutional. The high court was correct to set it aside,” the judgment said.

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