WATCH | Jacob Zuma released on special remission after quick stop at Estcourt prison

President Ramaphosa approves special remission process for low-risk prisoners

11 August 2023 - 07:50
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The department of correctional services has confirmed former president Jacob Zuma reported to Estcourt prison on Friday and was released within a couple of hours after a “remission process has been effected”.

Correctional services commissioner Makgothi Thobakgale revealed this decision in a press briefing held with justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola.

Thobakgale addressed reporters from the Estcourt prison.

“As the national commissioner I have exercised my discretion about the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment in making the decision whether to take into account the period served under community corrections by the former president,” he said.

“In compliance with the SCA judgment, Zuma did report back to the correctional centre this morning and a consideration has been made as per legislation. The administrative procedures have ensued and Zuma has been processed accordingly.”

Lamola announced a special remission process for non-violent offenders has been approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

A remission of sentences for low-risk offenders is a crucial aspect of South Africa’s justice system, and is particularly relevant in light of overcrowding in prisons, the minister said.

Zuma served less than two months of his 15-month sentence handed to him by the Constitutional Court for contempt of court after he failed to obey its order to abide by the lawful summons of the state capture inquiry. His incarceration led to the July 2021 riots, which saw KwaZulu-Natal plunged into chaos by looting and violence that spread to Gauteng, leaving about 354 people dead and caused billions of rand in infrastructure damage.

In September 2021, Zuma was released on medical parole by former correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser.   

That decision was set aside as unlawful by the courts. However, the SCA judgment left it in the commissioner’s hands to decide whether he was empowered by law to consider whether the time Zuma has already spent on medical parole can be considered in determining “the remaining period of his incarceration”.

Lamola said “the exercise of exploring special remission commenced on April 24 when we lost approximately 1,112 beds due to dilapidation” in correctional centres.

The current prison occupancy rate is 143%.

Former president Jacob Zuma reported to the Estcourt correctional services facility early on Friday.
Former president Jacob Zuma reported to the Estcourt correctional services facility early on Friday.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu/TimesLIVE

“The recent loss of 3,024 beds at Kutama Sinthumule due to fire means overcrowding will increase by 4%, raising the overcrowding rate to 47.06% and the occupancy rate will increase 147%. This poses a direct threat to inmate health, security and management, and could lead to a surge in gangsterism. More importantly, it hampers the department’s ability to provide development and rehabilitation programmes.

“Offenders convicted of non-violent and non-sexual crimes will be eligible for up to 24 months of remission after completing the pre-release programme and risk assessment and providing fingerprints and DNA samples for comparison to the SA Police Service database.”

Lamola said there are 212,286 inmates, including 9,351 foreign nationals, managed by the department of correctional services in the country's 243 prisons and 218 community centres.

The remission decision will result in the release of about 9,488 inmates and a further 15,000 inmates who are currently under correctional supervision and parole. The majority of the beneficiaries of this decision are already serving parole or under correctional supervision in their communities, he said. 

Another 3,064 foreigners serving short-term sentences will be deported.

“To ensure this decision is implemented effectively, a joint technical task team comprising the justice, crime prevention and security cluster departments will oversee the process over 10 months, with the department of home affairs leading the aspect of foreign nationals,” the minister said.

“Victims will be allowed to make representations during the offenders' considerations for placement.”


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