South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal has ruled that the decision to release former President Jacob Zuma on early medical parole was “unlawful” and that he should return to prison to finish his sentence for contempt of court.
Last year, Zuma was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment after ignoring a court order to testify at a government inquiry into widespread corruption during his near-decade as president, a tenure that ended in 2018 when incumbent Cyril Ramaphosa replaced him.
In September 2021, Zuma was released on medical parole after serving a fraction of the sentence. But in December, the high court set aside the parole decision and ordered him to return to jail.
Zuma appealed that ruling and judgment was delivered on Monday, a month after the department of correctional services said his prison sentence had ended.
“In other words, Mr Zuma, in law, has not finished serving his sentence. He must return to the Escourt Correctional centre to do so,” the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment read.
The court took issue with the department’s claim that Zuma’s sentence had ended while the appeal was still being heard.
It also found that the decision by the former national commissioner of correctional services to grant Zuma medical parole against the advice of the Medical Parole Advisory Board, a specialist body, was unlawful.
“On any conceivable basis, the commissioner’s decision was unlawful and unconstitutional. The high court was correct to set it aside,” the judgment said.
The Jacob Zuma Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the department of correctional services said the judgment was being studied and it would likely respond later.