The Jacob G Zuma Foundation has characterised former President Jacob Zuma’s recent release on remission as a strategic instrument to bolster President Cyril Ramaphosa’a’s chances of securing reelection in the upcoming year.
Zuma was one of the first 32 individuals released from prison through the presidential special remission on Friday, as part of a nationwide initiative to alleviate overcrowding in correctional facilities.
Over 1 500 of the 9 488 non-violent offenders granted remission were released into community correction this past weekend.
A spokesperson for the foundation, Mzwanele Manyi, said Ramaphosa’s decision to provide remission to Zuma is unwarranted, given Zuma already completed his term under correctional supervision as a parolee.
Manyi criticised former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, who faced backlash from her supporters on Twitter for asserting that the remission signified Ubuntu and that there would be no benefit in Zuma serving an extended prison sentence.
“This is a facade. All that is happening now with remission propaganda is that Ramaphosa is trying to re-emerge in 2024 as ‘this nice person.’ This is all nonsense. There is no remission. President Zuma served his term, and we have got it in writing.
“This whole debate is another public relations thing just to try and pretend as if Ramaphosa did something nice. This is another thing to try and take away the fact that President Zuma subjected himself to the process as if he is being done a favour when he served his sentence in full,” said Manyi.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said Ramaphosa was a “spineless” leader who manipulated the law in favour of Zuma.
“The government has once again [avoided] standing up for the rule of law and the constitution and chosen through a cynical and manipulative move to set Jacob Zuma free.
“This is yet another example about this government and particularly our president who has once again shown his spinelessness, walking out on the principles that we should hold dear in any democracy, the rule of law and equality before the law. This is a manipulation of the justice system,” said DA leader John Steenhuisen.
DA member of parliament Glynnis Breytenbach claimed the existence of a premeditated plot to facilitate Zuma’s release from prison.
Breytenbach also questioned the recent incident at the Kutama Sinthumule Correctional Centre in Makhado, Limpopo, where a fire destroyed over 3 000 beds. The incident prompted the urgent release of inmates on remission, including Zuma.
“I don’t necessarily think this was planned way beforehand, I think that even the fire in Makhado was too much of a coincidence, and to suddenly have to rehouse three and a half thousand prisoners and this [becomes] the reason for urgency is just absolute nonsense.
“Of course, this scheme was set in motion when they lost the matter in the Constitutional Court. Another way had to be found to accommodate Zuma, and this is what they have come up with,” said Breytenbach.
She also falsely claimed that the special remission of prisoners was a brand-new policy specifically designed to favour Zuma.
Presidential remissions were first granted on May 10, 1994, at the inauguration of late former President Nelson Mandela, followed by two more special remissions on April 27, 1995, and July 18, 1998.
In 2005, former President Thabo Mbeki granted special remissions to 65 837 prisoners. The number included 31 865 inmates and 33 972 parolees. Zuma himself granted special remissions to 45 033 prisoners on April 27, 2012.
According to Correctional Services National Commissioner Samuel Thobakgale, Zuma presented himself to the Estcourt Correctional Centre in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, on Friday to be processed as a prisoner on Friday.
Thobakgale said Zuma was acting in line with a court decision that his parole was unlawful, and therefore he had to return to Estcourt to complete his sentence.
“In compliance with the SCA Judgement, Mr Zuma did report back at Estcourt Correctional Centre. A consideration has been made as per legislation, including processes that were already unfolding in the management of correctional services.
“The administrative procedures have ensued and Mr Zuma has been processed accordingly. I have therefore advised the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services of my decision,” said Thobakgale.
Minister of Justice, Constitutional Development and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola added that Zuma, as a non-violent prisoner, was among the 9 488 prisoners who qualified for a presidential remission granted by Ramaphosa.