from NJABULO BUTHELEZI in Durban
DURBAN – THE last time former President, Jacob Zuma, was sent to prison- in July- South Africa descended into an orgy of anarchy that left over 300 people dead.
The state security cluster came under fire for their lack of preparedness for the violent unrest that also left property worth billion of dollars destroyed and worsened the woes of the country’s economy.
Sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for failing to appear before a commission probing alleged corruption during his presidency (2009-18), Zuma was allowed medical parole in September much to the tensions in the troubled country easing.
Following Wednesday’s High Court order on Zuma (79) to return to jail after an earlier decision to release him on parole was set aside, there are fears of similar unrest.
The security cluster, with the State Security Agency now within the Presidency, is not leaving anything to chance as was the case in July.
It is on high alert to forestall any trouble.
As Zuma’s legal woes return to haunt him, so is the factionalism tearing the ruling African National Congress (ANC) apart.
A faction sympathetic to Zuma believes the courts are taking President Cyril Ramaphosa’s side in the factional battles of the liberation movement, which is the oldest in the African continent and has managed South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Coincidentally, the impending return to prison came the same week his book, “Jacob Zuma Speaks”, which was sold out.
Sympathisers of the former president have slammed the court order.
The Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma Foundation said sending him to prison, which is allegedly on record in its inability to provide medical care for person with Zuma’s condition is “tantamount to giving him a death sentence.”
Zuma is battling an undisclosed ailment, which prompted his parole in September.
His legal team has delivered his application for leave to appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal. The Department of Correctional Services is also appealing.
This is in terms of section 17 of the Superior Courts Act.
According to the foundation, this is “on the grounds that the judgment is clearly wrong and there are strong prospects that a higher court will come to a totally different conclusion.”
Carl Niehaus, one of Zuma’s most vocal supporters and a former spokesperson of the ANC, hit out at the courts.
“President JG Zuma was illegally imprisoned without a trial in the first place. Our courts are fully captured,” he said.
“All South Africans who believe in justice must totally oppose Nxamalala’s return to jail,” Niehaus added.
Such sentiments have been blamed for the July unrest. Niehaus was among those accused of inciting violence. Police apprehended him during a television interview apparently for breaching lockdown regulations.
Niehaus, suspended from the ANC, alleged that Zuma continued to suffer “gross injustice at the hands of the unjust system that should not have imprisoned him in the first place.”
“This is a personal, vindictive, judgement by the notorious Gauteng North High Court where Msholozi lost 100 percent of his cases. A sad day for justice,” Niehaus continued.
Msholozi is Zuma’s clan name.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomed the High Court ruling and the revocation of Zuma’s medical parole.
DA, alongside Afriforum and Helen Suzman Foundation, had challenged the parole that was endorsed by then- National Commissioner of Correctional Services, Arthur Fraser.
The opposition party is however wary of the consequences in a country that while hailed as a beacon of democracy is increasingly volatile and plagued by poverty, unemployment, corruption and a declining economy.
“We appeal to Mr Zuma and his supporters to respect the Rule of Law and to accept this judgment without resorting to further violence and protest,” implored John Steenhuisen, leader of the DA.
Zuma, despite his legal woes, retains massive support within the ruling party and the country, especially in his KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) home province that erupted into chaos after his initial jailing.
The violence spread to the country’s commercial hub, Gauteng.
The ANC in KZN has pledged support for Zuma’s appeal.
It is the biggest branch of the organisation.
Mdumiseni Ntuli, the regional secretary, told media they planned to ask the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to be amicus curiae or “a friend of the court.”
The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster is on high alert.
“As the cluster, we wish to reiterate our confidence in our constitutional democracy that provides that all people are equal before the law.”
According to the cluster, the separation of powers and the independence of the Judiciary are the bedrock of the Constitution, and the courts function without fear or favour as they entrench the rule of law.
“Any form of recourse must follow appropriate channels within the confines of the law,” the cluster stated.
Bheki Cele, the Minister of Police, said officers had learnt lessons from the July unrest.
He said the army would be deployed if necessary to back up police.
Speaking at the virtual launch of his book, Zuma said, “I feel very good that some South Africans who are patriots have felt that it was no fair that those South Africans who think differently had to tell the kind of stories that were not true.”
– CAJ News