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The shocking thing about the decision by the correctional services department to release Jacob Zuma on “medical parole” was that so few people were shocked.
After all, this is the same ANC government which released Schabir Shaik, the man sentenced to 15 years’ jail for corruption linked to Zuma, on a similar medical parole because he was said to be “terminally ill”.
This phrase was used again in explaining the parole process for Zuma, although not specifically about him.
If the former president is as fortunate as his former confidant, then he might live another 10 years. Shaik went home in 2009 and is, by all accounts, hale and hearty 12 years later.
Shaik was officially released in January last year, having served the required portion of his sentence, albeit supposedly at death’s door… Zuma may well be gravely ill – yet he and his legal teams and his comrades have played such an extended game of delaying the inevitable, in order to keep him out of a court room, South Africans can be forgiven for wondering whether this health issue is merely a case of “crying wolf”.
The prisons’ authorities have been at pains to point out that prisoners with medical issues are entitled to apply for parole – yet one cannot escape the feeling that this was part of a special deal cut with Zuma.
If, as now appears probable, Zuma uses the medical excuse to once again duck answering in court to his main charges of corruption, it will be yet another indication that the ANC is all talk and little walk when it comes to corruption.
Some people argue that the prosecution against Zuma is enough to show that no-one is above the law, but that is not how most people will see it.
The parole may be humane but, in political terms, it is hugely problematic.