Zuma officially free as 15-month jail sentence comes to an end

Former president Jacob Zuma’s prison sentence officially came to an end on Friday.

In a statement, the Department of Correctional Services (DSC) said the former statesman has been removed from its system.

“[DCS] is able to confirm that the former state president, Mr Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, has been released from the system of correctional services. Mr Zuma’s 15 months sentence expired on Friday, October 7 2022,” said the department.

However, Zuma’s freedom is solely dependent on the Supreme Court of Appeal’s (SCA) decision on whether the time he spent outside on medical parole should count as part of his sentence as ordered by the high court.


Zuma, who spent two months at the Estcourt correctional centre in KwaZulu-Natal, was arrested in July 2021 for contempt of court. This after he was found guilty by the Constitutional Court for failing to appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture earlier in the year.

In September 2021, former correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser ordered the release of the former statesman on medical parole, but a high court judge in Gauteng, Elias Matojane, ruled in December 2021 that Fraser erred in his decision.

Matojane ordered that the former president returns to jail to serve the remainder of his 15-month jail sentence.

The appeal

In August 2022, Zuma approached the SCA to have the high court ruling set aside.

Zuma’s lawyer advocate Dali Mpofu told presiding judges Nambitha Dambuza and Nolwazi Mabinda-Bowana that the former statesman suffers from a chronic condition that qualified him to be released on medical parole.

Mpofu further said the findings by two doctors have indicated that Zuma is terminally ill.

Stressing the need to understand how Fraser assessed the medical reports ahead of releasing Zuma on parole, the SCA justices said it is difficult to determine whether Fraser acted rationally, stating that he did not disclose that Zuma was suffering from a terminal illness.

The court questioned why the “terminal illness” is not categorically stated in the medical report. Mabinda-Bowana said there is no information about the actual illness that Zuma is suffering from.

The court heard that Fraser was given no choice but to grant parole because correctional services does not have adequate facilities to treat Zuma’s illness. Mpofu argued that Zuma’s condition requires him to be under 24-hour medical care.

“It should be noted that according to SAMS [military officials], the condition of Mr Zuma required that he be under the care of a medic on a 24-hour basis, a situation which was not possible at the facility, as the correctional centre can only accommodate inmates overnight,” said Mpofu.

“Therefore, the medic could not be allowed to spend 24 hours with Mr Zuma, as the medic could not be accommodated in the correctional facility.”

Mpofu argued further that the application was brought to court in order to abuse the justice system to serve the political interests of the DA and the Helen Suzman Foundation.

Although the plaintiffs argued that the medical parole advisory board did not recommend parole for the embattled former stateman, legal eagle advocate Mariba Mphahlele commented at the time that there is nothing improper about the decision to set Zuma free, even though the advisory board was against it.

Mphahlele argued that the advisory board’s report is not a deciding factor for granting medical parole, adding that the board’s report is supplementary to other reports submitted to the national commissioner.

He said the Correctional Services Act enabled Frazer to act decisively and protect the rights of an inmate to adequate medical treatment.

Judgment was reserved.

Contest for top ANC post 

Meanwhile, the former president, who was deemed unfit to attend court proceedings in his arms deal trial at the Pietermaritzburg High Court, has shown an interest in the chairmanship position of the ANC.

As the party gears up for its 55th national elective conference in December, the pressure is mounting on those who wish to occupy the top six most contested positions.

Zuma confirmed in a statement in September that he has been approached by some branches to run for the position of national chairperson. He said if given the opportunity, he will not decline the position.

“I [also] wish to confirm that I have been approached by a number of cadres to make myself available for the position of national chairperson of the ANC to contribute in the rebuilding of the organisation and to provide direction,” said Zuma at the time.

“I have indicated that I will be guided by the branches of the ANC and that I will not refuse such a call should they deem it necessary for me to serve the organisation again at that level or any other.”

In a tweet on Friday, Zuma’s daughter Duduzile Zuma confirmed that the former president has been nominated for the position.

“President Jacob Zuma, in his absentia, was nominated by his branch for national chair and has made history by being the first former ANC president to be delegate number [one],” she said.

Also read: Zuma’s freedom lies squarely at the hands of the SCA

Jacob Zuma raises hand to be ANC’s next national chairperson

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