Jacob Zuma, the former President of South Africa, will not be returning to prison for his 15-month sentence for contempt of court due to concerns over prison overcrowding. Zuma had surrendered to authorities on Friday after previously being released on medical parole, a move that was deemed illegal by the courts.
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola stated that Zuma’s release is part of a remission process aimed at addressing the issue of overcrowding in South African prisons. This process involves the release of low-risk offenders to alleviate strain on the prison system. The decision to release Zuma was reportedly approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa and applies to over 9,000 low-risk prisoners.
Zuma reported to the Estcourt Correctional Facility in KwaZulu-Natal, his home province, on Friday morning and was admitted into the system. However, he was released just an hour later under remission status.
Zuma’s imprisonment in 2021 sparked widespread protests and riots, resulting in the deaths of over 350 people. He had been sentenced for refusing to testify before a panel investigating corruption and cronyism during his presidency. Despite his initial imprisonment, Zuma was released on medical parole after serving only two months of his sentence.
An appeals court later ruled that his release on medical parole was illegally granted and ordered him to return to prison to complete his sentence. The constitutional court upheld this decision last month, rejecting an attempt to overturn the ruling.
Zuma’s case highlights the complex legal and political landscape in South Africa, as well as the ongoing challenges faced by the country’s prison system. The decision to release him from returning to prison underscores the government’s efforts to address overcrowding and manage the prison population while navigating legal and public opinion.