Convicted Former South Africa President Jacob Zuma Receives Prison Decongestion Amnesty

South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma has been spared from returning to prison, with officials saying this is to ease overcrowding.

Zuma, who was sentenced to 15 months for contempt of court, surrendered himself to the authorities on Friday.

The 81-year-old had previously been freed on medical parole – in a move ruled illegal by the courts.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said he had been given remission to address overcrowding in prisons.

Zuma is one of more than 9,000 low-risk prisoners released under a scheme that began in April to make space in South Africa’s jails.

Mr Lamola said the decision had been taken by the prison authorities without any political interference, and that Zuma had not been given any special treatment.

The remission process aims to alleviate strain on the system by releasing low-risk offenders.

A prisons department spokesperson told the BBC that South Africa’s prison population was currently 47% higher than official capacity.

This was made worse by the fact that inmates allegedly set one prison on fire last week. This meant nearly 4,000 inmates were transported to other facilities where they didn’t have beds.

South Africa’s Commissioner of Prisons Makgothi Thobakgale said Zuma had reported to the Estcourt Correctional Facility in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal on Friday morning and was “admitted” into the system, before being released an hour later.

Lobby group AfriForum has accused South Africa’s prisons department of helping Zuma evade justice.

South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has said it will legally challenge the remission granted to the former president. While the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal has welcomed the decision and said it is in the best interest of the country.

More broadly the reaction has also been mixed. Some South Africans say the government should focus on pressing issues such as frequent power outages, high crime rates, poverty, and youth unemployment, while others say Zuma should go back to jail to serve the rest of his term.

Zuma’s jailing in 2021 sparked protests and riots that left more than 350 people dead.

He was sentenced after refusing to testify before a panel probing financial sleaze and cronyism under his presidency.

He was however freed on medical parole just two months into his term.

An appeals court last November found the release was illegally granted and ordered Zuma back to prison to finish his sentence. Last month, the constitutional court rejected an attempt to overturn this decision.


Wahab Akinlade

Akinlade I. WAHAB is a dedicated journalist and the proprietor of I-WAHAB Media. He embarked on his career at Murhi International TV (MiTV) and subsequently joined Radio Nigeria as a Judicial Correspondent.With a profound interest in legal reporting, he currently holds the positions of Chairman at the National Association of Judicial Correspondents (NAJUC), Ikeja Branch, and Chairman at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Radio Nigeria Chapel.As the owner of I-WAHAB Media, he has successfully established Top Court News, a platform renowned for providing comprehensive coverage of court cases and legal developments, with the aim of promoting transparency within the judicial system.Akinlade's diligent work and unwavering commitment to ethical reporting have earned him immense respect within the Nigerian journalism community.

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