South African justice sends Jacob Zuma back to prison

Former South African President Jacob Zuma, who has officially finished serving a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court, must return to prison as his conditional release last year on health grounds was against the law, an appeals court ruled Monday.
The 80-year-old former head of state was convicted in June 2021 for stubbornly refusing to testify before a commission investigating corruption under his presidency (2009-2018).
His imprisonment the following month triggered an unprecedented wave of violence and looting, in a tense socio-economic context, leaving 350 people dead. Two months later, he was released for health reasons and placed under judicial supervision.
The Supreme Court of Appeal “considers that Mr. Zuma’s conditional release on medical grounds was contrary to the law,” in a decision.
The head of the prison service had granted parole against the advice of the institution’s medical committee. The medical experts had considered that Mr. Zuma “does not meet the required conditions”.
Jacob Zuma’s health remains largely unclear. According to multiple medical reports cited in the court of appeal’s decision, he suffers from blood pressure problems, high blood sugar levels and severe colon damage.
The prison official had no basis to go against the opinion of the medical panel, the appeals court said. As a result, “Mr. Zuma, by law, has not finished serving his sentence. He must return to the Escourt Correctional Center.”
The decision comes as prison authorities last month announced the end of Zuma’s sentence, and he has appeared in public several times, dancing and singing to his supporters.
Despite the scandals, he is still seen as the biggest political rival of current president Cyril Ramaphosa.
The ANC meets from December 16 to decide whether to invest Mr. Ramaphosa for a second term in 2024. Elected on a promise to eradicate corruption, he has been hampered by a scandal surrounding mysterious bundles of cash discovered during a break-in at one of his properties.