The backlash against prisons boss Arthur Fraser’s decision to grant former president Jacob Zuma medical parole is intensifying.
The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) has now entered the legal fray and argues the lack of transparency “makes a mockery of the rule of the law” in another Constitutional Court bid to overturn it.
In June, the Constitutional Court found Zuma in contempt of its previous order for him to appear before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture for questioning and sentenced him to 15 months behind bars.
But two months later, the department of correctional services announced he had been granted medical parole.
During an SABC interview with Vuyo Mvoko two days later, Fraser admitted the medical parole advisory board had in fact not recommended Zuma’s early release, but that he had overruled it.
Civil society is up in arms and Fraser is now facing multiple legal challenges, with the HSF’s the second to be mounted against his decision since it was announced.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) lodged the first on Friday. AfriForum, meanwhile, is currently in the process of preparing a third.
Filed yesterday, the HSF’s case – like the DA’s – has two parts.
In the first, it wants a record of the decision. In the second, it wants the decision reviewed and set aside and substituted with one denying Zuma parole.
“The national commissioner has deliberately shrouded his decision in secrecy and has failed to provide substantive reasons or supporting evidence,” Francis Antonie, the foundation’s director, said in the founding papers.
“In respect of such a pivotal decision that was always likely to attract public scrutiny and generate national and international scrutiny, that lack of transparency makes not only a mockery of the rule of law, but also violates the public’s right to truth as regards accountability for Mr Zuma’s conduct.”
In support of the urgent basis on which the HSF had brought the case, Antonie emphasized that even if the decision was ultimately reviewed and set aside, “the intervening time that Mr Zuma is unlawfully released on medical parole may still count towards his sentence”.
“If so, then Mr Zuma would have benefitted from an unlawful reduction of his sentence,” Antonie said.
“This would in turn erode the effectiveness of the Constitutional Court’s order – something that the national commissioner, as an organ of state, is duty-bound to avoid. It would also erode the rule of law.”
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela, on the back of whose State of Capture report the commission of inquiry was established, said yesterday transparency was important but, in Zuma’s case, it did appear there were sensitive issues at play.
Madonsela also expressed concerns that the nation was becoming “obsessed” with Zuma.
But political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga said the question for him was whether the decision to release Zuma was an ethical one.
Another issue currently at play is Fraser and Zuma’s shared history, with the former widely considered a long-time ally of the latter.
It’s alleged Fraser, the former State Security Agency head, was the source of part of the infamous spy tapes, which wound up getting Zuma off the hook on his corruption charges back in 2009.
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