Medical parole: Can Jacob Zuma go back to prison if his health improves?

Well, isn’t that something? The serene peace of the first Sunday afternoon of Spring was shattered earlier today, when the Department of Correctional Services dropped a bombshell on us: Jacob Zuma has been released on medical parole, after serving less than two months of his sentence behind bars.

Jacob Zuma released on medical parole

Msholozi, who has been receiving hospital treatment for the past few weeks, was granted medical parole after a letter from the attending doctors impelled the DCS to let him serve his sentence in a ‘community corrections’ setting instead. In an official statement released by the department, it was confirmed that uBaba will be subject to ‘specific restrictions’.

“The DCS is able to confirm that Jacob Zuma has been placed on medical parole. His eligibility is impelled by a medical report we have received. Inmates suffering from an illness that severely limits their daily activity can be considered.”

“Medical parole placement for Jacob Zuma means that he will complete the remainder of the sentence in the system of community corrections, whereby he must comply with a specific set of conditions and will be subjected to supervision until his sentence expires.” 

How does one secure medical parole in South Africa?

Despite his various ailments, Jacob Zuma has never disclosed what exactly he’s suffering with.

He’s made mysterious trips to various doctors and hospitals in the past few years, and his health issues have often coincided with big days in court or at State Commissions. However, the scepticism surrounding his illnesses has been rejected by the DCS – and the process for securing medical parole follows these steps:

  • If an illness, affliction, or injury leaves an inmate ‘physically incapacitated’, they are also eligible.
  • The Medical Advisory Board (MAB) must have the final say on who gets granted medical parole.
  • An applicant must undergo a rigourous assessment before the MAB submits a verdict to Case Management Committees.
  • If successful, an inmate will then be discharged and monitored by DCS officials, under a strict set of conditions.
  • Prisoners who are deemed ‘low risk’, with a sentence of 24 months or less, are usually granted medical parole.

Can Jacob Zuma go back to jail if his health improves?

Zuma is now likely to return to his Nkandla homestead – and none of us should be surprised if he makes a decent recovery over the next few weeks or months. As it goes, a turn for the better won’t jeapordise his technical freedom.

According to the DCS, an offender cannot be sent back to jail if their health improves – that only happens if they violate their terms of release. So if Jacob Zuma is fighting fit all of a sudden, all he needs to do is stay out of trouble, and he can keep himself on the right side of those prison bars. For Team Msholozi, this one feels like a victory.

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