Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
5 minute read
15 Dec 2021
2:18 pm

Niehaus calls on ‘concerned’ South Africans to oppose overturning of Zuma’s parole

Thapelo Lekabe

Niehaus says the high court’s ruling demonstrates the ‘vindictiveness’ of the judiciary against the former president.

Carl Niehaus. Picture: Gallo Images

One of Jacob Zuma’s closest allies and staunchest supporters, Carl Niehaus, has called on South Africans who are concerned by the Pretoria High Court’s ruling overturning the former president’s medical parole to oppose the decision.

Niehaus spoke to The Citizen on Wednesday after the high court ruled in favour of the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and AfriForum’s urgent review applications seeking to set aside Zuma’s release in September on medical grounds.

ALSO READ: Sending Zuma back to prison is a victory for equality before the law, says Steenhuisen

The court found that former national commissioner of correctional services, Arthur Fraser, was wrong to override the Medical Parole Advisory Board’s decision to refuse Zuma medical parole after it found that he was not terminally ill or severely incapacitated to serve his 15-month sentence, imposed in late June by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) for being in contempt of court.

Niehaus said he was shocked by the high court’s judgment. He said the ruling demonstrated the “vindictiveness” of the judiciary and should be opposed by concerned citizens because it “perpetuates the continuing injustice that has been committed” against Zuma.

“We are outraged by this decision because we believe that president Zuma has been once again treated grossly unfairly. This indicates to us that he is continuing to be victimised.

“We call on all concerned citizens – who want to see a legal and a justice system that is not biased and concentrating on certain people and leaving other people off the hook – we call on them to be opposed to his return to jail,” Niehaus said.

READ MORE: Court rules Zuma’s medical parole was unlawful, orders his return to prison

Niehaus, who is also the spokesperson for the ANC’s disbanded uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Association (MKMVA), said the call for citizens to oppose the high court’s ruling did not mean any illegal acts or the deadly unrest that engulfed parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July, after Zuma was incarcerated at the Estcourt Correctional Centre in KZN.

“When I say we should oppose it, it doesn’t mean that we want to do anything illegal. But it is our democratic right and freedom of speech to raise our concerns and oppose this decision and to register our unhappiness.”

‘Everyone must maintain cool heads’

Asked if he was concerned that the scenes from the July unrest, which the government labelled as a failed insurrection, would repeat itself if Zuma is ultimately forced to go back to prison, Niehaus said he did not want to speculate on this.

“I can only say to you that the opposition that we have to this decision has to be a peaceful and legal one and obviously we hope that everyone will maintain cool heads, including our legal system because I’m afraid the kind of decisions that sometimes are taken by our courts are outrageous and it does anger people. And unfortunately, it does lead to tension in our society.”

Niehaus said he was incensed by the cost order imposed by the high court on Zuma and the national commissioner of correctional services to pay the costs of the medical parole challenge.

He said the former president had nothing to do with the medical parole granted to him.

“It is very strange that a cost order was granted against [former] president Zuma on a matter which is not his decision. It was in fact an administrative decision by the commissioner of correctional services and this court case was really against the Department of Correctional Service not against president Zuma,” he said.

Regarding the ruling that Zuma should serve out the remainder of his sentence regardless of the fact that he has been out on parole, Niehaus said this was also unfair.

“It is very strange that president Zuma is forced to serve from the period of September until now. The sentence added to his current sentence and the parole period is not fair.”

Niehaus also dismissed the DA’s arguments in the case that Zuma was not sick, after the Sunday Times reported that Zuma met with him and former South African Airways board chair, Dudu Myeni, at a casino in Durban in October.

‘Vindictiveness’ from the judiciary

Niehaus said Zuma was placed on very strict parole conditions by the correctional services department.

 “I had engaged with president Zuma during this parole period and I know he was under very strict conditions.

“All of these decisions, the cost order, the manner in which he is now not acknowledged to have served part of his sentence under medical parole – all of this indicates vindictiveness from the side of the Gauteng North High Court.”

Zuma to appeal ruling

Niehaus called on Justice Minister Ronald Lamola to appeal the high court’s ruling.

“One sincerely hopes that the Department of Correctional Services, and very specifically the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola, will appeal this decision of the high court.

“It is his responsibility to appeal it because this decision seriously undermines the rights and authority and position of correctional services, especially the decision of the commissioner of correctional services,” he said.

The Department of Correctional Services said it had noted the 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.

Zuma’s foundation announced on Twitter that he would appeal the court’s judgment “on the grounds that the judgment is clearly wrong and there are strong prospects that a higher court will come to a totally different conclusion”.

NOW READ: ‘I took the decision’: Arthur Fraser on why he released Zuma against board’s advice