AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
THE South African government has, following a high court decision that ex-president Jacob Zuma must return to jail, pleaded for calm and declared that it is ready to deal with potential violence from supporters of the former head of state.
There have been concerns from various quarters in SA that the country would experience riots similar to those seen after Zuma was jailed for contempt of the Zondo Commission into State Capture and the Constitutional Court.
The plea for calm came from Ronald Lamola, SA’s Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. At a press conference by the country’s security cluster ministers, Lamola said: “We call for calm and restraint from all South Africans after the court judgment with regards to the former president. It is important that we allow the due process of the law to take its course. The parties themselves are engaging in the matter and court processes.”
The declaration of readiness to deal with potential violence from supporters of Zuma came from Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Cele said the government had learnt lessons from the riots in July, which inflicted damage running into billions for many businesses and left many unemployed. The lessons would be used to quell any unrest. “The experience gained from there (July unrest) will be utilized to ensure South Africa remains safe, stable and calm, and all people in SA are protected along with their property,” he said.
SA Defence Minister Thandi Modise revealed that soldiers would be deployed on major highways and toll gates, to prevent the blocking of roads by truck drivers. “We cannot afford a situation, as a country, where trucks block strategic economic routes. We have already started looking at how we will deploy to do that,” Modise said.
In a joint statement, SA security ministers expressed their confidence in the country’s constitutional democracy.
“As a cluster we wish to reiterate our confidence in our constitutional democracy that provides that all people are equal before the law. The separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary are the bedrock of the Constitution ,and our courts function without fear or favour. Any form of recourse must follow appropriate channels within the confines of the law,” the minister said, in a statement read by Cele.
The security ministers held a briefing after a dramatic 24 hours during which the North Gauteng High Court ruled that Zuma must go back to jail and within hours, the former president and the SA Department of Correctional Services (DCS) lodged court papers to appeal the decision.
In their appeal documents, Zuma’s lawyers strongly criticized Judge KE Matojane, who handed down the judgment and said his decision amounted to “cruel and degrading punishment with no due regard to the patient’s health care, dignity and other human rights. It is the antithesis of ubuntu”.
The lawyers insisted that he was terminally ill and said there was objective evidence to back this up. They said Judge Matojane failed to take into account evidence that no correctional facility in SA was capable of accommodating Zuma’s medical needs.
Zuma also argues that the Helen Suzman Foundation, the Democratic Alliance and AfriForum did not have the required legal standing to challenge his release on medical parole.
The DCS said that it was convinced, after carefully studying the judgment, that another court would arrive at a different conclusion. “DCS is of the view that the court sadly misinterpreted the Correctional Services Ac and erred in declaring the decision of the National Commissioner to place Mr Zuma on medical parole to be unlawful and setting it aside. We will outline the grounds of appeal in the court papers that we will be filing in court in due course,” the department said in a statement.
Zuma had suffered a major setback after the North Gauteng High Court ruled that he should return to prison because his medical parole, the basis on which he was freed from 15-month imprisonment, was unlawful.
The Court has found that the decision by Arthur Fraser, the then National Commissioner to release Zuma was illegal. North Gauteng High Court Judge KE Matojane also slapped Zuma and Fraser with costs.
The court declared that the time Zuma spent out on medical parole should not be counted for the fulfillment of his 15 months sentence.
The application to have the parole set aside was lodged by the Helen Suzman Foundation.
Judge Matojane found that Fraser’s decision to override the Correctional Services’ Medical Parole Board to deny Zuma medical parole was irrational.
“This decision is irrational because if there was no longer a need for the Third Respondent (Zuma) to receive the standard of care provided by the hospital, Third Respondent should have returned to the Correction Center where he had access to all the medical care he required instead of being released to the care of his wife who has no medical training,” the Judge said in his ruling.
He also said Fraser failed to consider the jurisdictional requirement that when releasing a prisoner, the risk reoffending must be low. “The Third Respondent (Zuma) continues to attack the Constitutional Court while on medical parole. He states in his answering affidavit that he considers himself a “prisoner of the Constitutional Court ” and alleges that he was “incarcerated without trial” despite the Court dismissing his rescission application,” Judge Matojane said.
When the parole was granted, Zuma, 79, had served two of his 15 months prison sentence and had been in hospital for over two weeks after he underwent surgery.