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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist


Zuma’s Russia trip ‘plunges SA govt into deeper legal and political predicament’

Zuma's trip raises the question of whether he could be extradited if he refuses to come back.


Amid the raging storm over the Constitutional Court judgment on former president Jacob Zuma’s unprocedural medical parole, the revelations that he is in Russia are set to plunge the South African government into a deeper legal and political predicament, according to experts. ALSO READ: ‘Why do you still want SA to burn?’ – Malema says Ramaphosa’s ‘hands not tied’ over Zuma While the department of correctional services yesterday remained tight-lipped when asked to respond to the judgment and questions on how Zuma slipped out of the country while on medical parole, most analysts said the ANC-led government had much to…

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Amid the raging storm over the Constitutional Court judgment on former president Jacob Zuma’s unprocedural medical parole, the revelations that he is in Russia are set to plunge the South African government into a deeper legal and political predicament, according to experts.

ALSO READ: ‘Why do you still want SA to burn?’ – Malema says Ramaphosa’s ‘hands not tied’ over Zuma

While the department of correctional services yesterday remained tight-lipped when asked to respond to the judgment and questions on how Zuma slipped out of the country while on medical parole, most analysts said the ANC-led government had much to answer for regarding the former president.

The Jacob Zuma Foundation confirmed that Zuma was in Russia for medical treatment.

‘Zuma liable to be taken back to prison’

Independent political analyst Sandile Swana said travel by any paroled prisoner had to be pre-approved by the department of correctional services.

“All travel must be backed up by credible, truthful facts and valid illness,” said Swana.

Joining several other experts calling for Zuma “to go back to prison”, Swana said: “[Former correctional services commissioner] Arthur Fraser ignored the existing laws and facilities and used brute force to release Zuma from prison, using arbitrary readings of the law and procedures.

ALSO READ: Zuma receiving treatment for undisclosed illness in Russia

“Now that the courts, particularly the ConCourt, has given clarity that whatever medical parole was given had no basis, the judgment is not appealable. The department needs to be asking itself what it needs to do. As things stand, Zuma is liable to be taken back to prison.

“He cannot be outside prison on an invalid medical parole and has to be taken in for processing.”

‘Political solution’

Ruling out “a political solution to the Zuma question”, Swana said: “It cannot be a political solution implemented by the ANC or its factions, given that the opposition has been involved in getting the parole set aside.

“The national decision is not that of the majority in the ANC, but should incorporate all political parties, with everybody being part of that decision and supporting it.

“It is not an easy thing to do because it has the element of potentially undermining the constitution – driving a perception that we are not all equal before the law.

“The attorney-general and the department of correctional services must say how they want the incarceration executed.”

National security

One expert who called for caution in dealing with the implications of Zuma going to jail, Nelson Mandela University politics lecturer Dr Ongama Mtimka, said: “The jailing of Jacob Zuma and the consistency of our courts show that no one is above the law. But influence and national security must also be borne in mind and political risk or security questions cannot be taken lightly.

ALSO READ: Zuma’s parole: Correctional Services suffers defeat as ConCourt dismisses appeal

“While the faction that organised Zuma protests two years ago no longer have the same political capital, only the state intelligence agencies can confirm the prospects of another outbreak – and they must do their work.”

Institute of International Relations fellow Gabriel Crouse said: “There have been widespread calls for Zuma to go to jail, but at least two considerable obstacles could prevent that. Firstly, Zuma is abroad, reportedly receiving medical treatment. This raises the question of whether he could be extradited if he refuses to come back.

“According to the department of justice website, there is no extradition treaty between the Russian Federation and South Africa, but extraditions can be granted on a case-by-case basis. Zuma’s unlawful discharge from prison means that no ‘time served’ applies. The reputation of Zuma’s ‘black book’ is titanic and its contents should be used to sink those still in government who robbed the fiscus. That remains his best course to freedom.

“Alternatively, he must serve his 13 months. Neither his departure for foreign shores, nor friends in the ANC-appointed executive ought to be able to keep Zuma from the order that he goes back to prison.”

Zuma ‘must go to jail’

University of Pretoria senior law lecturer Dr Llewelyn Curlewis said: “Zuma must go to jail because – in line with the Supreme Court of Appeals last judgment and the ConCourt – there is no legal prospect of another court coming to a different conclusion.

ALSO READ: Reports that ConCourt ordered Zuma to go back to jail are ‘malicious, misleading and hateful’

“If a political solution is sought, it would portray us as unequal before the law. Government should leave matters to the application of the law. The ConCourt has spoken and the executive is obliged to comply.”

– brians@citizen.co.za

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