Former President Jacob Zuma of South Africa will not be sent back to prison because of the issue of overcrowding.
Former President Jacob Zuma of South Africa has been spared from returning to prison due to concerns about overcrowding. He was sentenced to 15 months for contempt of court and turned himself in to authorities on Friday.
Despite having previously been released on medical parole, which was deemed illegal by the courts, Zuma has now been granted remission to alleviate prison overcrowding.
This decision is part of a larger initiative to release over 9,000 low-risk prisoners to create more space in the country’s jails.
According to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, the prison authorities made this decision independently, without any political influence, and Zuma did not receive any preferential treatment.
The remission process aims to alleviate strain on the system by releasing low-risk offenders.
A prisons department spokesperson told the BBC that South Africa’s prison population was currently 47% higher than official capacity.
This was made worse by the fact that inmates allegedly set one prison on fire last week. This meant nearly 4,000 inmates were transported to other facilities where they didn’t have beds.
South Africa’s Commissioner of Prisons Makgothi Thobakgale said Zuma had reported to the Estcourt Correctional Facility in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal on Friday morning and was “admitted” into the system, before being released an hour later.
Lobby group AfriForum has accused South Africa’s prisons department of helping Zuma evade justice.
South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has said it will legally challenge the remission granted to the former president. While the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal has welcomed the decision and said it is in the best interest of the country.
More broadly the reaction has also been mixed. Some South Africans say the government should focus on pressing issues such as frequent power outages, high crime rates, poverty, and youth unemployment, while others say Zuma should go back to jail to serve the rest of his term.
Zuma’s jailing in 2021 sparked protests and riots that left more than 350 people dead.
He was sentenced after refusing to testify before a panel probing financial sleaze and cronyism under his presidency.
He was however freed on medical parole just two months into his term.
An appeals court last November found the release was illegally granted and ordered Zuma back to prison to finish his sentence. Last month, the constitutional court rejected an attempt to overturn this decision.