Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen has welcomed the Pretoria High Court’s judgment on Wednesday morning, which ruled in favour of his party’s urgent application to overturn former president Jacob Zuma’s release on medical parole.
The high court sided with the DA, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and AfriForum’s urgent legal bids to set aside Zuma’s medical parole taken on 5 September by the former national commissioner of correctional services Arthur Fraser.
The court found that Fraser’s decision to release Zuma from jail was unlawful and ordered the national commissioner of correctional services and Zuma to pay the costs of the medical parole challenge.
The DA, the HSF and AfriForum lodged their review applications after Fraser admitted during an interview with SABC News that he had overridden the Medical Parole Advisory Board’s decision not to release Zuma from jail.
This was despite the board finding that Zuma was not terminally ill or severely incapacitated to serve his 15-month sentence imposed by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) in late June, for refusing to obey court orders to appear before the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.
‘We all knew Fraser was doing Zuma a favour’
Steenhuisen praised the court’s ruling as a major victory for the rule of law and the principle of equality before the law.
He said the court demonstrated that it didn’t matter if one was a former president or an ordinary citizen, “the rules apply to everybody and that’s how it should be in a democracy”.
“We are very glad that the court has agreed with our views that the granting of that medical parole was irregular and unlawful and has now set it aside.
“I think this is a major victory for principle for quality before the law because we all knew that Mr Fraser was doing a favour to Mr Zuma and it wasn’t based on any medical grounds or in law,” Steenhuisen said.
Steenhuisen was speaking during an interview eNCA on the sidelines of the DA’s media briefing at the Sheraton Hotel in Tshwane on the party’s coalition agreements for municipalities.
Court orders Zuma must return to jail
Steenhuisen said the high court’s directive that Zuma should return back to jail to serve out the remainder of his sentence had both legal and political implications.
He said he hoped that the deadly unrest that broke out in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng after Zuma was incarcerated would not repeat itself now that the former president had been ordered to return to jail.
“We saw what happened in July with the unrest and I certainly hope that the authorities are going to be a little bit more prepared this time for any incidents that may occur.
“But also South Africans must realise this actually a victory for all South Africans because one of the steps towards dictatorship and tyranny is when the laws don’t apply to people because they’re connected and this is actually protecting ordinary citizens from an abuse of power by government.”
Ordinary citizens should take a step back, have a breath and acknowledge what a good thing this is for the future sustainability of our country and democracy.John Steenhuisen
The Department of Correctional Services said in a terse statement it had noted the high court’s judgment on Zuma’s medical parole and was studying the ruling.
The department’s spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said they would make further pronouncements in due course.