PRETORIA, South Africa: A South African court in Pretoria has ordered the country’s former President, Jacob Zuma, to return to prison, stating his medical parole was “unlawful” and the time he spent out of prison should not be counted as part of his 15-month sentence.
Zuma, 79, who was jailed for failing to attend an inquiry into corruption during his presidency, was released on 5th September due to an undisclosed medical condition.
He surrendered to police in July after a public stand-off, but his imprisonment, unprecedented for an ex-president, sparked violent protests and looting that lead to the deaths of more than 300 people, mostly in his stronghold of KwaZulu-Natal province.
Zuma is also facing a separate corruption and fraud trial related to an arms deal in the late 1990s, but he has repeatedly said he is the victim of a political conspiracy.
Meanwhile, prison authorities say his release on parole was compelled by a medical report, but his ailment has never been disclosed, despite undergoing surgery after being imprisoned.
Zuma’s spokesman said the imprisonment had “an exponential impact in terms of deteriorating his condition,” and lawyers argued that their client’s illness had rendered him incapacitated.
The Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s main opposition party, which was part of the legal challenge against the decision to release Zuma from prison, welcomed the court ruling.
“This is a big victory for the rule of the law and the principle of equality before the law,” said Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen.
The High Court in Pretoria ruled that the decision by Zuma ally Arthur Fraser, head of the correctional service, to release the former leader on medical parole was “reviewed, declared unlawful and set aside.”
Lawyers representing Zuma have appealed the court order, which could slow his return to prison.