Zuma release: disgust and appreciation

Former president Jacob Zuma was released after spending two hours at the Estcourt Correction Services centre.

Former president Jacob Zuma was released after spending two hours at the Estcourt Correction Services centre.

Published Aug 12, 2023


Durban - Reaction to President Jacob Zuma’s being released after two hours’ incarceration at the Estcourt Correction Facility has ranged from the ruling party expressing “revolutionary appreciation” to the main opposition calling it a “monumental insult to each and every South African”.

The IFP said that while the decision to let him walk free tempered with justice and mercy, further investigation of the “irregular decision” by former national commissioner of correctional services Arthur Fraser was needed.

“There is no more privileged and protected position in South Africa than being an ANC cadre,” said Afriforum’s Ernst van Zyl.

“Zuma’s special treatment and evading of justice proves this once again. It is clear that the ANC will ensure that none of its comrades ever serve time behind bars, even if it makes a mockery of the rule of law in this country.”

The provincial ANC said in a statement that it was happy that the matter which divided society had finally been laid to rest.

“We are alive to the reality that those opposed to the ANC and the enemy of the people of this country used this matter to divide the ANC and to cause social instability,” read a statement.

The ANC in KZN further noted that in complying with the Supreme Court of Appeal judgement, the Department of Justice and Correctional Services ensured Zuma returned to Estcourt prison.

“We pause to salute the department for meticulously following due processes in the management of this matter,” the statement read.

The DA said an elaborate scheme had been devised only to let a single man out of prison.

“(It) means that over 9 400 convicted criminals will be let out of prison ‒ simply to avoid the reincarceration of Mr Zuma,” said Glynnis Breytenbach, the party’s Justice and Constitutional Development spokeswoman.

The former president was among this number of low-risk prisoners set free to relieve overcrowding.

“The confluence of coincidences is simply too great to be convincing,” said Breytenbach.

“This entire scheme was devised with one aim in mind ‒ to ensure that Zuma does not spend any time in prison.

“This decision has nothing to do with overcrowding and everything to do with preventing Zuma from facing accountability for his actions.“

“The fact that the remission comes into effect today ‒ the same day on which Zuma returns to prison to be ‘processed’ ‒ is a clear indication of what has really occurred. Were this decision not a tragic deconstruction of the principle of equality before the law, it would well pass for a comedy show.”

The DA concurred with Afriforum about the ruling party protecting its comrades.

“Just when we thought the ANC could sink no lower, they surprised us.”

The DA said it would consider further legal action to challenge “this abomination of a decision”.

The IFP said while it welcomed the decision to release Zuma and closed the door to more possible unrest, it should not be considered a precedent.

“Lawlessness and violence ‒ or the threat of violence ‒ must never outweigh the need for justice, accountability, and consequences for one’s actions,” said spokesman Mkhuleko Hlengwa.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment in 2021 on a charge of contempt of court after he failed to appear before the Zondo Commission. His incarceration sparked widespread unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng with businesses looted and torched and more than 350 people killed.

Two months after his incarceration, Zuma was released on medical parole by Fraser.

In July, the Constitutional Court dismissed an application by the Department of Correctional Services for leave to appeal a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal on whether or not Zuma should go back to jail.

In the ruling, the court found that the appeal bore no reasonable prospect of success and dismissed the application with costs.

The Independent on Saturday