Political analyst, Professor Dirk Kotze, says NGOs might be most upset by government’s decision to release former president Jacob Zuma from prison and chances of them winning a legal challenge over it are slim.
Earlier on Friday, National Correctional Services Commissioner, Makgothi Thobakgale, announced that the former president handed himself over to the Escourt prison officials where he was processed and later released.
Thobakgale says he had taken a decision to comply with the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment, which set aside the former statesman’s release on medical parole.
Zuma was released on medical parole in September 2021 after serving less than two months of of his 15- month contempt of court sentence for refusing to appear before the state capture inquiry.
His incarceration saw protests and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.
Zuma is among the beneficiaries of the President’s remission of non-violent offenders due to over crowding in the country’s prisons.
Professor Kotze says the decision was the most practical move to avoid plunging the country into chaos.
He says the country is already unstable with service delivery protests and most recently the taxi strike that claimed five lives in Cape Town.
Public sentiment is, however, divided over the matter, with some South Africans on social media celebrating the move.
They are paying homage to former correctional services boss, Arthur Fraser, who had made the call for the former president’s release on parole.
I hope Arthur Fraser is having a good day!
— Khanyi 🌸 (@khanyizama) August 11, 2023
Thank you King Arthur Fraser for releasing President Zuma on his illegal incarceration by the CC. Thank you for bringing the nation to light regarding Ramaphosa’s #PhalaPhalaFarmGate scandal, without you we wouldn't have known about dollars in #PhalaPhalaFarmGate pic.twitter.com/YFH9PsL1pE
— Banele (@Gentlements) August 11, 2023
Forever grateful to you Mr Arthur Fraser. You did your job. Others differed with you. Hopefully this saga is finally behind us as a country. pic.twitter.com/nPLLEoKNqO
— Wonderboy Peters (@PetersWonderboy) August 11, 2023
What Arthur Fraser did was unlawful.
Next time, people must do lawful things.
Pity that some think President Cyril Ramaphosa is the bad guy, however he is a good leader and a champion of renewal and rebuilding.
I hope Mkhulu Jacob Zuma will now respect his ANC President.
— Thembinkosi Justice Ngoma (@JusticeNgoma) August 11, 2023
Former President Jacob Zuma is now a free man.. I know this will upset a few people but I think it’s a good thing… The suffering he endured is more than enough for an old man…
— Phanuel Mabunda (@phanuelmabunda) August 11, 2023
I wonder if we all break the law then we will get away with it like Jacob Zuma.
— 🅹🅰🅼🅴🆂 🅷🅰🆂 🅰 🆂🅰🆈 & some Parody (@jameshasasay) August 11, 2023
The ANC, EFF and the UDM have also welcomed the government’s decision, while other political parties are seeing red.
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, John Steenhuisen, has slammed President Cyril Ramaphosa accusing him of undermining the law to keep Zuma out of prison for political reasons.
“This is yet another example about how this government and particularly our president who has shown the spinelessness walking out on the principles that we should hold dear in any democracy, the rule of law and equality before the law.”
Steenhuisen has further labelled the move as a cynical manipulation of the justice system as well as the powers of government.
He says it is clear that ANC cadres will never be held accountable under Ramaphosa’s administration.
“This also sets a terrible example for what is going to happen to those hundreds of ANC cadres whose names appear in the Zondo commission report and for whom criminal charges are expected to be implemented. Does this now mean that if you’ve got an ANC membership in your pocket, it means you have a get out of jail free card?,” asks Steenhuisen.
The party says it will challenge the decision in court.
ActionSA leader, Herman Mashaba, on the other hand says the decision is risky as government released nearly 10 000 prisoners to save Zuma.
“This move makes a mockery of the criminal justice system in South Africa by demonstrating once again that President Ramaphosa puts the ANC first and the country second.”
AfriForum’s Ernst van Zyl has rejected the decision as an insult to justice and the rule of law.
“”There is no more privileged and protected position in South Africa than being an ANC cadre. Zuma’s special treatment and evasion of justice proves this once again. It is clear that the ANC will ensure that none of its comrades ever spends time behind bars, even if it makes a mockery of the rule of law in this country,” says Ernst van Zyl.
Van Zyl adds that this proves that as long as the ANC is in power, everyone that’s close to the party is effectively above the law.
Written by: Lindiwe Mpanza