South Africa’s DA decries Zuma prison release

By Laureen Fagan - 11 August 2023 at 2:59 pm
South Africa’s DA decries Zuma prison release

South Africa’s corrections system is releasing thousands of nonviolent offenders at the direction of President Cyril Ramaphosa, but one of them – former leader Jacob Zuma – is at the center of controversy.

Zuma, now 81, was sentenced to 15 months for contempt of court in 2021. The decision followed a lengthy corruption investigation, including a controversial 2016 State of Capture report that linked Zuma to alleged dealings with the wealthy Gupta families and South African state entities including the country’s Eskom utility provider. He denied allegations of corruption and ultimately served only two months on the contempt charge.

A decision Friday will release Zuma along with nearly 25,000 other prisoners in an overcrowded corrections system. Corrections official Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale said in a statement that Zuma has been under agency authority since July 2021 and served continuously under a community corrections program, despite countering views that Zuma did not serve as sentenced due to a medical waiver.

The corrections department decision is based on a prison overcrowding rate of 43%, made worse by a recent fire at the Kutama Sinthumule facility. But opposition political leaders are among those crying foul over the release of Zuma as part of the process, just as he returned to jail, with the Democratic Alliance calling the Ramaphosa decision “smoke and mirrors.”

“There is nobody in South Africa that believes the special remissions process was approved by Ramaphosa independently of Zuma’s anticipated return to prison,” the DA said in a statement. “This decision has nothing to do overcrowding, and everything to do with preventing Zuma from facing accountability for his actions.”

Image: Zuma Foundation file

Laureen Fagan

Laureen Fagan

Laureen is the editor of Africa Times

Laureen is a freelance journalist creating high-quality, informed content on international affairs, politics and technology. She has worked both in and out of newsrooms since 2000. She is a former paramedic with significant experience in community resilience and nonprofit community development initiatives, and maintains "a passion for action" on sustainability and climate change. She also is trained in conflict resolution and diversity, and has special interests in science and medical reporting, and culture and religion issues. Laureen received her MSJ from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in the United States, and completed additional graduate study in theology at University of Notre Dame. Follow Laureen on Mastodon at

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