The spokesperson for Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says the minister’s hands are tied concerning former president Jacob Zuma’s medical parole.
THE SPOKESPERSON for Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, Chrispin Phiri, says that the minister’s hands are tied concerning former president Jacob Zuma’s medical parole.
Phiri was responding to questions from Independent Media on Sunday on whether the outgoing national commissioner of Correctional Services, Arthur Fraser, was correct in overriding the decision of the internal parole board to free Zuma on medical grounds, whether he was legally wrong according to the department’s rule book and if action would be instituted against Fraser.
“In terms of section 79, Minister Lamola only engages with the medical parole advisory board in relation to inmates serving life sentences. In any other instance, decisions about the granting of medical parole are the responsibility of the national commissioner (Fraser) or a head of a centre,” Phiri said.
The Department of Correctional Services has granted Zuma parole almost two months into his 15-month sentence for contempt of the Constitutional Court, allowing him to serve the rest of his jail time at home.
Fraser cited Zuma’s illness that saw him being moved from his Estcourt prison cell by the military health services to receive treatment at a facility in Pretoria.
The move prompted the DA, the Helen Suzman Foundation and AfriForum to challenge the decision as irrational and they demanded answers.
Fraser admitted during an interview with a local news channel on Wednesday evening that he overruled the parole board to grant Zuma parole.
However, he insisted that his decision, which came into effect on Sunday, was perfectly legal and that he was ready to provide documentation to Parliament and to anyone who wanted to know the process he had followed.
He narrated the events leading up to his decision to override the institution tasked with considering whether prisoners had a valid reason to seek parole on medical grounds.
Among the steps were that three medical opinions were submitted in favour of freeing Zuma, but the medical parole board turned them down until his intervention.
“They applied for medical parole … I think that is at the beginning of August where they applied and we were directed to the relevant structures. Within our structure we’ve got health care and then we’ve got the medical advisory parole, so we directed that to them.
“So they allocated a doctor to go and do an observation as they do in all instances. They have done an observation and based on their engagement and assessment … on the patient, recommendations were made to the medical parole advisory board and those were made … The board did not approve medical parole because they indicated that he was in a stable condition,” said Fraser.
“What I need to indicate is that when the advisory board provided those recommendations I had then, as the head of the centre, who has the authority to decide, then reviewed the information available and then indicated that the conditions, based on the reports that we have, require us to release him,” he said.
Meanwhile, the DA’s spokesperson on Justice and Correctional Services, James Selfe, said on Sunday that they had written to the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee, Bulelani Magwanishe, to request that the committee meets during the upcoming recess to deal with the matter.
“Fraser has indicated that he has a whole list of reasons for this travesty, and the DA urges him to share this list to be scrutinised by Parliament,” Selfe said.
– Political Bureau