Jacob Zuma will be treated with dignity in jail, may serve just under 4 months - minister Ronald Lamola

08 July 2021 - 14:04 By nivashni nair

Former president Jacob Zuma may serve just under four months of his 15-month sentence behind bars.

Speaking outside the Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal, where Zuma began his sentence on Thursday, minister of justice and correctional services Ronald Lamola said Zuma would be eligible for parole after serving a quarter of his sentence.

“In his case there is no stipulation for a non-parole period. This means that the former president will be eligible for parole once a quarter of his sentence has been served.

“We want to assure all South Africans that former president Zuma will be afforded dignity throughout his term of incarceration,” he said.

Former president Jacob Zuma will have access to television but not a private phone. Correctional services minister Ronald Lamola visited the Estcourt facility on Thursday.
Former president Jacob Zuma will have access to television but not a private phone. Correctional services minister Ronald Lamola visited the Estcourt facility on Thursday.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu/Sunday Times

When asked if Zuma could apply for medical parole, the head of the centre, Nompumelelo Hadebe, said any offender could apply for it.

“We have our medical board that does the assessment. This independent body assesses the situation of the applicant and if he qualifies according to that body, then he may qualify,” she said.

Lamola said he deals with medical parole for offenders on a day-to-day basis.

“They do come with recommendations from that board,” he said.

On meeting with Zuma

Lamola said he had spoken to Zuma, who is in the prison's hospital section in isolation as per Covid-19 protocol.

“I have seen him. He is in very good spirits. He has taken his breakfast and medication. We spoke. I also told him that I am going to tell the nation that he is here in this facility and he said 'yes, they must know'," he said.

He did not discuss politics with Zuma.

“I was just checking whether he is fine. He indicated that he is fine and that we can tell the country that he is in a dignified environment."

Correctional services minister Ronald Lamola spoke to Jacob Zuma, who is in the prison's hospital section in isolation as per Covid-19 protocol.
Correctional services minister Ronald Lamola spoke to Jacob Zuma, who is in the prison's hospital section in isolation as per Covid-19 protocol.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu/Sunday Times

“There was no political discussion. Cabinet is not divided on this matter. As you would have seen, we have respected the outcome of the Constitutional Court and we waited to implement what the court has said. And we have no role on what the court decides.

“As the executive our role is to develop policy and legislation and also to execute.”

Prison conditions

Zuma will be kept in isolation for 14 days, during which time a profile report will be compiled to determine where he will serve the rest of his sentence within the prison.

“All these systems are in place to ensure that the incarceration is done in a manner that is not retributive but humane,” Lamola said.

The prison houses 212 inmates and is a Medium-B facility.

Zuma will have access to television but will have to use the provided public telephones within the prison to make calls. He will not have a personal bodyguard at his side, as the facility has its own security.

Lamola said his department could not provide proof in the form of a video or photograph to show that Zuma was in the prison, as it was not allowed.

“We cannot take pictures and videos of inmates. But you can take our word that he is indeed in this facility. There is no reason for us to say to he is here if he is hiding somewhere else. He is in this facility,” he said.

Referring to the choice of facility, he explained that Zuma's warrant of committal did not state that he should be imprisoned in Westville Prison.

“The warrant of committal was not for Durban, Westville. It was sent to the head of prisons. In this regard, it was sent to head of correctional services in KwaZulu-Natal. It does not state that he has to be incarcerated in Westville. The national and regional commissioner decides, based on the risk and the offence, where an offender will go.”

The ConCourt last week sentenced the former president to 15 months in jail after it found him guilty of contempt of court. He had disobeyed the apex court’s judgment that he had to appear before the state capture inquiry.

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