Disgraced former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi's problem is not his grave illness - if such it is - or his massive debt to the state for his legal costs. Selebi's problem, and our collective problem, is that our institutions are losing legitimacy.
The Correctional Services Department's medical parole advisory panel, which decided that Selebi should be released, was inaugurated only on March 1. However, the panel that it replaced destroyed any legitimacy that the current body might have had. That advisory panel decided to release President Jacob Zuma's friend and former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, on medical parole.
We were told that Shaik was in the final stages of a terminal disease. There was very little time before Shaik died, it was said.
Well, it has been years since Shaik was released. We know that he enjoys a round of golf every so often. We know that he seems so healthy that there have been allegations that he tried to beat someone up.
In the eyes of the public, therefore, the medical parole system was corrupted to favour a friend of Zuma so that - despite being found guilty of corruption by a court of law - he could walk out of prison a free man and never see the inside of a cell again. If you are a friend of the president's, or a politically well-connected individual, then crime does pay.
Let us consider Selebi's case. On the face of it, Selebi seems gravely ill. But the diagnosis is given to us by the same institutions that told us Shaik was terminal.
The two cases are different, though. Shaik was released on the basis of an old medical parole law that said that prisoners "in the final phase of a terminal disease or condition" may be considered for medical parole "to die a consolatory and dignified death".
The new section 79 of the Correctional Matters Amendment Act, signed by Zuma on February 26, and which came into effect on March 1, looks as though it were designed to ensure that, if Selebi starts playing golf next week, then Correctional Services will not have to account for why he is as fit as a fiddle.
Independent Newspapers reported in March that this law says that medical parole may be granted if the prisoner "is suffering from a terminal disease or condition, or if such offender is rendered physically incapacitated as a result of injury, disease or illness so as to severely limit daily activity or self-care".
Thus the prisoner does not have to be dying, as was the case before March 1. Is Jackie Selebi dying? No. Selebi will die if he stops his dialysis treatment. Indeed, the possibility exists that Selebi might, when he considers his great fortune in being released just 229 days into his 15-year term, be in such good spirits that his ailments might indeed regress. He might be playing golf before the year is out.
Was the law changed more than a year ago to benefit politically connected individuals who might want to feign illness when they land in jail? Because of this new law, Shaik does not have to go back to jail because his condition has improved. He is a free man.
The second niggling aspect of the Selebi case is that the new medical parole advisory board had its first sitting on June 20. There were only 12 cases for it to consider and Selebi's was one of them. It troubles me that, in 2010, about 900 prisoners died of illness or old age with nothing being done whereas Selebi gets his case heard so quickly by a board that has only just been appointed, and at its first meeting.
It would seem to me that our institutions of state have been corrupted to favour Zuma and his friends. This past week it emerged that the National Prosecuting Authority is dragging its feet on providing the DA with the evidence that led it to the conclusion that it should drop corruption charges against Zuma. Why? Perhaps there was no such evidence?
It is public knowledge that the then acting NPA head, Mokotedi Mpshe, plagiarised his reasons for dropping the charges against Zuma from a foreign judgment. If he felt the need to do this, then surely he must have been padding his argument - if, indeed, there was one.
The fact is that not many in our country now trust the NPA to prosecute without fear or favour. Not many in our country now trust the medical parole board to release politically connected individuals on a factual basis.
These two institutions have been compromised.
Can you think of others?