There are mounting calls for embattled National Commissioner of Correctional Services, Arthur Fraser, and government to explain the reasons behind the release of former president Jacob Zuma on medical parole.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and AfriForum are all threatening legal action if the Department of Correctional Services does not give full written reasons for placing Zuma on parole on medical grounds.
This follows Fraser’s admission this week during an interview with SABC News that he had overridden the Medical Parole Advisory Board’s decision not to free Zuma from jail.
The HSF has written to Fraser and Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola to request the reasons for placing Zuma on medical parole by no later than 5pm on Monday, or it will take legal action.
In a letter from law firm Webber Wentzel, dated 6 September 2021, the foundation said the former president’s parole was “shrouded in secrecy”.
“Should you fail to deliver the abovementioned information and documentation timeously or should the information/documentation not negate our client’s concerns about the lawfulness or otherwise of the decision, our client will have no option but to assume that there was no lawful basis for the decision and to exercise its legal rights, in its interest and in the public interest, on an urgent basis,” the letter read.
The Department of Correctional Services on Sunday announced Zuma was granted medical parole after it received two medical reports on his health condition, which has not been disclosed to the public.
Zuma was serving a 15-moth jail term at the Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal for being in contempt of the Constitutional Court.
‘Ramaphosa owes South Africans an explanation’
At the same time, DA leader John Steenhuisen on Friday wrote an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa demanding an explanation for his role in the appointment of Fraser as the National Commissioner of Correctional Services back in 2018.
Steenhuisen claimed Fraser overruled the parole board’s decision not to release Zuma on supervision with Ramaphosa’s “full knowledge and blessing”.
“But this myth that you are a president who never knows anything, never does anything and therefore cannot be tied to anything needs to be put to bed once and for all. The deployment of Arthur Fraser and the unlawful granting of medical parole to Jacob Zuma has your personal fingerprints all over it,” Steenhuisen said.
The DA is approaching the Pretoria High Court on Friday to review and set aside Zuma’s parole.
The official opposition on Thursday said Steenhuisen would lodge an application to seek the record of the decision that led to the granting of parole to Zuma. Steenhuisen will also submit an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) for the records of the parole board.
Furthermore, the DA requested the chairperson of Parliament’s justice and correctional services committee to summon Lamola and Fraser to explain Zuma’s release.
Steenhuisen said: “We also know that you [Ramaphosa] personally welcomed Zuma’s release from prison, despite his sentence being a legitimate outcome of our court system, and despite the fact that you knew his medical parole was a complete sham. In other words you welcomed the setting aside of the law for the benefit of the ANC.”
AfriForum demands answers too
AfriForum also requested answers regarding Zuma’s medical parole. The organisation gave Fraser until Friday to answer several questions on the medical parole or it would seek legal action.
AfriForum requested information on the following:
- Whether Zuma is suffering from a terminal illness that justifies his medical parole.
- Details of the nature of Zuma’s injury, illness or ailment if he has not been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
- Full feedback on Fraser’s conclusion that there is no risk of Zuma violating his medical parole.
- A copy of the application for medical parole, in the prescribed format, considered by Fraser.
- A copy of the medical report recommending that Zuma be placed on medical parole.
Attempts by The Citizen to get comment from Lamola’s spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri, were unsuccessful. However, he told IOL the minister only had a say on parole matters involving offenders serving life sentences.
“In terms of section 79 [of the Correctional Services Act] minister Lamola only engages with the medical parole advisory board in relation to inmates serving life sentences. In any other instance decisions about the granting of medical parole are the responsibility of the national commissioner [Fraser] or a head of centre,” Phiri was quoted as saying.