Monday, 17 June, 2024
HomeMedico-LegalZuma was given medical parole ‘because of fears of unrest’

Zuma was given medical parole ‘because of fears of unrest’

Former president Jacob Zuma was given medical parole by the National Commissioner of Correctional Services, overturning the recommendation of the Medical Parole Advisory Board, because “of fears of unrest” if his life were “recklessly” put at risk.

And granting the parole ​had “nothing to do with his political standing” or his “perceived relationship” with the former president, said Arthur Fraser, the former prison boss who controversially served as the director-general of the State Security Agency during Zuma’s presidency and was his top spy.

Fraser said he had authorised the former president’s release on medical parole primarily on health grounds but also because a failure to do so “could have ignited events similar to that of July 2021”.

This, reports Mail & Guardian legal writer Emsie Ferreira, came in an affidavit filed to the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) in reply to a review application by the Democratic Alliance demanding that the decision to release Zuma in September be set aside and he be returned to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence for contempt of court. Fraser, throughout his submission, insists that Zuma’s medical records remain classified as top secret, saying that if the applicant wished to secure the release of these, it had failed to follow the proper channels. He also said he would not be able to provide Zuma's medical records to the litigant anyway because he was prohibited from doing so by intelligence legislation.

In his affidavit in response to the DA’s challenge to the lawfulness of Zuma’s release on medical parole, Fraser said that having served under Zuma’s presidency “was not a reason not to follow the law when dealing with the application of any other matter relating to his incarceration”.

Had he not granted the parole, it could have had dire consequences, he added, and moreover, “trigger events similar to those the country witnessed in July”.

That month, recalls the M&G report, more than 350 people died as violence and looting, ostensibly sparked in protest against Zuma’s imprisonment, spread through KZN and parts of Gauteng.

News24 reports that the Helen Suzman Foundation and AfriForum have also launched litigation in response to Zuma being granted medical parole by Fraser against the recommendation of the Medical Parole Advisory Board. They say he had no legal right to override the Board's decision that Zuma did not qualify for release under the law governing medical parole.

These cases are due to be heard during one sitting in the coming weeks and have again raised questions about the use of medical parole to release politically connected inmates.

But Zuma has rubbished the applicants as racially-motivated and vehemently denied that Fraser abused the medical parole system to release him. “Mr Arthur Fraser has served his country well and I have the highest respect for his professionalism and integrity,” Zuma stated in his affidavit

According to a  News24 report, Zuma also lambasted the DA, Helen Suzman Foundation, and AfriForum as “racist” for launching their litigation.

Zuma said: “This application is a thinly-veiled political stunt aimed at cheap electioneering, racist hatred, opportunism and the unwanted attention of busybodies, such as the three applicants. They do not have any legitimate interest in the outcome of the application apart from posturing, attention-seeking and settling political and historical scores”.

He has refused to consent to his medical records being handed over to the parties, even under condition that they be kept confidential.

“The DA would gloat endlessly if it were in possession of written confirmation that its formidable political foe was sick with a terminal illness,” he states. “The courts must refuse to feed this political appetite, which has no constitutional entitlement to my medical records for political reason… It would make the DA a happy political party if it knew when I would die so that a major huddle (sic) to its political agenda of trapping SA in its racist narrative is eliminated.” He further argues, says News24, that without access to his medical records, the parties challenging his release on medical parole had no real factual basis on which to do so.

Zuma began serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of the Constitutional Court on 7 July this year, after trying and failing to bring several last-ditch court challenges to the apex court’s majority ruling that his vociferous defiance of its order that he appear before the State Capture Inquiry was so egregious that it justified jail time.

Zuma had been treated by military doctors, who, three weeks after the former president was first imprisoned, had recommended he be referred to an outside hospital.

On 5 August, he was moved “to a tertiary medical facility as a matter of urgency" and later to a hospital in Pretoria. On 23 August, a report was received by the Medical Parole Advisory Board that recommended he be released because of the “clinical picture that presents unpredictable medical conditions”. But it was not approved by the Board, which held that it did not have sufficient information, according to the affidavit that repeatedly refers to the classified nature of his medical reports. There, his doctors prepared an application for his release on medical parole and submitted it to the correctional services department.

Fraser said he was told the correctional services department would provide a complete record of Zuma’s medical parole decisions, and he was prohibited from doing so by intelligence legislation and anyway, did not have copies of Zuma's medical records as they were in the custody of his military doctors.

Zuma was examined by Dr LJ Mphatswe on behalf of the Medical Parole Advisory Board and his report recommended Zuma be placed on medical parole "with immediate effect because of the clinical picture that presents unpredictable health conditions”. "He is of old age and generally looks unwell and lethargic," Mphatswe had written.

“The total outlook of his complex medical conditions and associated factors in an environment limited to support his optimum care is of extreme concern. More worrisome is the unpredictability of his plausible life threatening cardiac and neurological events.”

When the Medical Parole Advisory Board met on 26 August to consider Zuma's application for release and Mphatswe’s report, they realised they did not have enough information to make a decision, so they reconvened a week later to consider the additional specialist medical reports they’d asked for, on Zuma’s condition. They then refused the medical parole application on the basis that “his treatment has been optimised and all conditions have been brought under control”.

Fraser did not accept that assessment.“What was striking was that [Zuma] was, at the time, in a specialised hospital where his condition had stabilised and had been brought under control because he was under the care of doctors for a month,” he argues in his affidavit. He adds that here was “no telling what would happen if he were to return to prison”.

“The [Medical Parole Advisory Board] did not take into consideration if [Zuma's] health condition would be optimised and stabilised once he would be returned to Estcourt Correctional Centre.”

According to his affidavit, Zuma was in hospital from 5 August to 8 September, whereupon he returned to his Nkandla residence, with doctors on call to provide supervision and support. Fraser said he could not allow the life of an inmate to be put at risk knowing that the Estcourt prison lacked the facilities to provide similar, 24-hour support. News24 adds that Fraser then decided Zuma should be placed on medical parole on 5 September.

The Correctional Services Act states that such parole “can only be granted to an offender suffering from a terminal illness or condition or if such an offender is rendered physically incapacitated as a result of injury, disease or illness so as to severely limit daily activity or inmate self-care”.

 

News24 article – 'I feared unrest' – Arthur Fraser tells court why he released Jacob Zuma on medical parole (Restricted access)

 

Mail & Guardian article – Fraser tells court he feared a repeat of July unrest (Open access)

 

News24 article – Zuma blasts ‘racist’ challenges to medical parole, says he respects Arthur Fraser’s integrity (Restricted access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Top specialists find Zuma fit for trial, fuelling scepticism over earlier medical parole

 

Outrage over medical parole for Zuma by outgoing Commissioner

 

Ramaphosa ‘gave the green light’ to Zuma’s medical parole

 

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