The Gambler: Zuma’s casino spotting reignites questions about his medical parole
A day after Jacob Zuma said his ‘colonial-apartheid government’-like parole conditions prevented him from addressing his supporters in person, he was seen leaving a casino in Durban with former SAA chair Dudu Myeni and others.
While the Democratic Alliance and the Helen Suzman Foundation continue their high-stakes attempt to challenge former Correctional Services commissioner Arthur Fraser’s alleged “arbitrary” abuse of administrative authority, the former president seems to have cashed in on his contested freedom.
Seen out in public for the first time since his controversial medical parole, a report in the Sunday Times showed the former inmate of Estcourt Correctional Centre leaving Sibaya Casino in Durban on Friday alongside supporters including dismissed Luthuli House staffer Carl Niehaus and Dudu Myeni, the former chair of South African Airways and the Jacob Zuma Foundation.
Asked about meeting Zuma, Niehaus bristled, curtly telling Daily Maverick, “I’m not discussing the former president’s health or state of being with you.” Asked about Zuma’s parole conditions, Niehaus said, “I’ve answered you. Goodbye.”
Just the day before Zuma was spotted outside the casino, he’d told supporters — gathered in their numbers at People’s Park in Durban on Thursday for his “national welcome home prayer” — that his strict parole conditions precluded him from attending the event in person.
Daily Maverick reported that among the gathered faithful were Ace Magashule, Zandile Gumede, Bathabile Dlamini, freshly bailed alleged July riot instigators Ngizwe Mchunu and Bonginkosi Khanyile as well as Niehaus.
“I remain a prisoner, under very strict parole conditions… like what house arrest and banning orders must have felt like during [the] colonial-apartheid government,” Zuma told the crowd via video link on Thursday.
A day later, he was seen, yellow notebook in hand, leaving the casino.
Asked whether Zuma was in violation of his parole and what the conditions of that parole are, Department of Correctional Services (DCS) spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo told Daily Maverick:
“Parole conditions are between the parolee and DCS; we never disclose them to the public. What we can confirm is that Mr Jacob Zuma made a request to leave his residence to be in another town and this was approved by his monitoring official. We can therefore confirm that permission was granted. This is in line with his parole conditions.”
Zuma’s jailing in the early hours of 8 July — after being found in contempt of a Constitutional Court order that he appear before the Zondo Commission — was followed by an outbreak of what has been described as the worst violence since the end of apartheid. Zuma was sentenced to 15 months of direct imprisonment by the apex court.
On 15 August, Correctional Services released a statement saying Zuma had undergone a “surgical procedure” the day before, “with other procedures scheduled in the coming days”, and remained in hospital.
On 5 September, less than two months into his jailing, Zuma was granted medical parole. The news was met with jubilation by his core supporters, while organisations ranging from AfriForum and the DA to the Helen Suzman Foundation registered their concern.
In an affidavit filed with the High Court, Pretoria in September, DA leader John Steenhuisen contended that the granting of Zuma’s parole “…sends the message to every South African that, as long as you are powerful and politically connected, you need not fear sanction for breaking the law. If you are sent to prison for your crimes, you will be let out well before the end of your sentence on ‘medical parole’.”
The ANC welcomed Zuma’s release. “We welcome the space the former president has been granted to reunite with his family and recover,” said ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe at the time. UDM leader Bantu Holomisa on Thursday called Zuma a victim of selective justice, according to a report in The Witness.
The DA wants the “irrational” decision of erstwhile Correctional Services commissioner Arthur Fraser — who authorised the release of Zuma on medical parole, despite the medical parole advisory board finding against doing so — to be reviewed and set aside.
A report in News24 noted that in a supplementary founding affidavit, filed in the Gauteng High Court last week, DA leader Steenhuisen contended that, “Mr Zuma takes the view that he is entitled to medical parole based on his medical information, but then maintains that anyone who wishes to interrogate the lawfulness of that decision is not entitled to see that information. This is self-serving and unreasonable.”
They are joined by the Helen Suzman Foundation which, filing applications with the High Court, Pretoria, sought the “record of and the reasons for the National Commissioner’s decision to place Mr Zuma on medical parole”. Foundation director Francis Antonie told Daily Maverick Fraser’s decision smacked of the “arbitrary” abuse of administrative authority.
Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, has also called for Zuma’s medical parole conditions to be made public. In the Sunday Times, Naidoo, who was unreachable at the time of writing, said: “The public need to know what these conditions are so we can be assured that they are not being transgressed, and that Mr Zuma is not receiving favourable or preferential treatment.”
Daily Maverick previously reported that the former president is also involved in a tussle with the National Prosecuting Authority, which wants its own doctors to examine him. Zuma says they should take the word of his military medical team. This is to determine if Zuma is fit to attend court proceedings and stand trial in the Arms Deal matter.
While the State-appointed specialists have not yet examined Zuma, as he has refused to consent to it, they have declared, on the basis of medical reports received from Zuma’s doctors, that he is fit to stand trial. Calls to the spokesperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation went unanswered at the time of writing. Their input will be included should it be forthcoming.
Zuma, who is facing one count of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud, is due back in court on 26 October to hear the outcome of his legal team’s attempt to dislodge the State’s prosecution. DM
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