South African president approves remission and release of former president from prison News
Pete Souza, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
South African president approves remission and release of former president from prison

Former South African president Jacob Zuma was reportedly released from prison on Friday after incumbent South African president Cyril Ramaphosa approved a remission (i.e. early release) of non-violent offenders.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months prison in July 2021 for refusing to testify before a panel that investigated financial corruption and cronyism under his presidency. He was later freed on medical parole after two months, which was approved by the Department of Correctional Services.

While Zuma briefly returned to a prison in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on Friday, he was released from prison a few hours later after Ramaphosa approved the remission of non-violent offenders. Ramaphosa’s administration stated that the remissions were meant to alleviate strain on South Africa’s overcrowded prison system.

Opposition figures such as Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen and ActionSA party leader Herman Mashaba have condemned Zuma’s remission. Steenhuisen stated that Ramaphosa’s government had “once again weaseled out of standing up for the rule of law and the constitution, and chosen through a cynical and manipulative move to set Jacob Zuma free.” In addition, Mashaba said that the decision “[made] a mockery of the criminal justice system.”

Furthermore, Nicole Fritz, Executive Director of the Helen Suzman Foundation, posited that South African authorities had managed a way “to ensure that Zuma doesn’t return to a jail cell.” Nonetheless, she also mentioned that this was an unusual case which “was an incredibly difficult and complex situation, and [she doesn’t] think many democracies handle accountability for former leaders well.”

Zuma, a senior member of the ruling African National Congress, served as president of South Africa from 2009 to 2018 until he was forced to resign due to corruption allegations. He has pleaded not guilty to accusations including fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering in relation to a weapons sale from the 1990s in another case that is now pending in court.