Ramaphosa’s decision took effect on Friday and many of the close circumstances have not gone unnoticed. What a surprise, he (Zuma, red.) is the first to benefit from an entirely new policy, said John Steenhuizen, leader of South Africa’s main opposition party. “This is a cynical manipulation of the justice system.”
Under this measure, 9,400 convicts can leave prison and be placed under house arrest. But Zuma appears to be really the first and only one released at the moment.
Zuma, 81, served as president from 2009 to 2015. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2021 for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into corruption under his presidency. But he only spent two months in his cell: he was released on parole on medical grounds.
This was done on the authority of a confidant, Arthur Fraser, former Director of the South African Intelligence Service and then Head of Prisons. However, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned Fraser’s decision last year, which was upheld by the South African Supreme Court in July this year. Zuma is back in prison.
At home again
So Zuma notified Estcourt Correctional Center in KwaZulu-Natal province at 6am on Friday morning. But after his prison sentence was processed under President Ramaphosa’s new order, he left an hour later to drive home to Nkandla in a motorcade of black SUVs. His return home was filmed and shown on South African television.
According to some commentators, President Ramaphosa raises suspicions that he is aiding a former comrade-in-arms of the ANC, the former Liberation Movement and the current ruling party. The head of state himself is accused of corruption, an accusation that was first leveled by the same Arthur Fraser who released Zuma from prison on medical grounds.
Fraser sued Ramaphosa last year. In 2020, he concealed the theft of nearly $600,000 in cash from his ranch in Vala Vala near the northern city of Bela-Bela. The president said he received the money to sell 20 cows to a Sudanese businessman and hid them in a sofa. Ramaphosa said it was stolen from there two weeks later.
A panel of legal experts made short work of this statement last year. For example, it is unclear how and why the Sudanese entered the country with so much money, why he did not collect his expensive cows and why Ramaphosa did not transfer the money to his bank account.
Last December, the South African parliament, in which Ramaphosa’s ANC has a majority, voted against impeachment of the president. It was opposed by 214 votes against, 148 against, with two abstentions.
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