Hein Kaiser
Journalist
4 minute read
30 Jun 2021
1:57 pm

Zuma is going to jail, but what will prison life be like for Msholozi?

Hein Kaiser

What will it be like when Jacob Zuma hands himself over to authorities and what could his prison cell look like?

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Supplied

The cloak Justice Sisi Kampepe wears on the bench must be more like a superhero cape.

She has singlehandedly achieved what the collective effort of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), former president Thabo Mbeki and a host of others have not been able to do for almost two decades.

Kampepe emerged with the upper hand in a face-off against former president Jacob Zuma, with South Africans the winners in this staring contest.

The wages of contempt of court are a sentence and not empty words for Zuma, who did not have an Ace up his sleeve this time around.

He was sentenced to 15 months in the tjoekie after, evidently unsuccessfully, avoiding giving testimony at the Zondo commission about his almost a decade in office.

House arrest or normal prison?

Should he really end up in prison after handing himself over to authorities, Zuma may have no option but to appear before the state capture inquiry, finally bringing the commission he breathed into life just before exiting Mahlamba Ndlopfu (formerly Libertas, the official Presidential residence), to full circle.

This will, in theory at least, place him at the behest of the taxpayer for once.

The burning question is, where will Zuma be incarcerated?

House arrest may be quite likely if he develops a medical condition just before presenting himself for a few months behind bars. Otherwise, shortly after, his physicians may make a case on medical grounds.

Shabir Shaik succeeded at this and is serving his sentence in the leafy northern suburbs of Johannesburg. Nkandla might become an ankle bracelet enclave in this instance.

After all, with the millions spent on security upgrades, it may be as difficult to sneak out as it must be to get inside.

One thing is for sure, should Msholozi find himself in a prison cell, it is unlikely it would look anything like the tiny Robben Island living quarters that Madiba spent most of his life in.

What would a Jacob Zuma prison cell look like? What will his first day be like in an orange jumpsuit and how will the gangs of 26’s, the 27’s and the 28’s take to his charm?

Will he receive a daily menu ferried in from the nearest eatery of enjoy the pap, bread and powdered drinks reportedly served to inmates in South Africa? Would Dudu Myeni sneak in a copy of The Zondo Commission for Dummies?

Imagine a few square feet with a featherdown duvet covering spread across a stretchy bed, big screen telly and aircon surrounded by three walls and a trellis of iron bars, lockable from the inside for a bit of privacy.

An en suite commode and shower add to its construct but there is no jacuzzi installed, that may be pushing it a bit.

The window opens to a well-manicured prison garden where his fellow men in orange toil daily. He can watch them all day, donning his own fatigues only when a camera is close by.

Light reading, perhaps?

The former head of state may take some time to write his memoirs, possibly titled There’s A Gupta On My Stoep, penned in between calls and binge watching Netflix.

jacob zuma

South Africans may have the last laugh as former president Jacob Zuma may head to prison soon.

Bacon and eggs for breakfast, a cheeseburger for lunch and a daily dinner menu served by the prison butler. Lights out will be when there’s load shedding.

Would wardens call him sir, Mr President, or dispose of formalities and just call him Jacob. Or would they number him as inmate fifty-two three thousand and two hundred?

Imagine the bun fight that will precede any prisoner’s pipedream. The Oscars may have nothing on it.

What will he wear when handing himself over to the men in blue?

As the world’s media descends on whichever branch of the law may enjoy the privilege of receiving Msholozi, what kind of smile will be shared, will he wave, raise his fist in defiance or quietly adjust his sunglasses with his middle finger?

Would that be his last statement to the press and to South Africans? It was a presidential trademark during the Zuma years.

A final thought. What will Zuma’s prison transport look like? There may be a vast chasm between his usual train of black SUVs and a blue light brigade of a different kind.

A prison truck led by a police force bakkie front and back. Now that would make a statement.