Johannesburg, December 16: South Africa’s security authorities are ready for any possible anarchy that might arise following a court decision terming former President Jacob Zuma’s medical parole as invalid and ordering him back to prison to complete his 15-month sentence for contempt of court, a senior minister said on Thursday.
The High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday ruled that the country’s former president Zuma should be returned to prison to complete his sentence for contempt of court, invalidating the medical parole he was granted in September by declaring it “unlawful”.
Zuma, 79, started serving his term in July after handing himself over to the authorities, but was released on medical parole just two months later by then National Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser in controversial circumstances.
In the judgement, Judge K E Matojane said the decision by Fraser, which was taken on September 5, is reviewed, declared unlawful, and set aside.
After Zuma started his sentence in July, there were several days of widespread looting, arson and even murders by rampant mobs in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, with little police action.
Minister of Police Bheki Cele said at a media briefing on Thursday that the police had learnt from the experiences of the July unrest, when President Cyril Ramaphosa had to call in the army after overwhelmed police failed to control the situation.
We’ll have to use those experiences so that a repeat of the destruction of property and the loss of life as it happened, shouldn’t (happen again), Cele said.
We have met with the management and leadership of the South African Police and Defence to make the preparations that the responses and reactions are much better this time. We believe they are in preparation on the ground as we speak, but not necessarily just for the announcement that was made yesterday on Zuma,” Cele said.
Cele said it was the usual practice of the police to strengthen resources in the coastal provinces during the festive season.
The coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal, which is Zuma’s home province, bore the brunt of the unrest in July.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise did not say if the army would be deployed during December.
But usually, if there is any uncertainty to life and limb, to property, to any economic interest of the country, Defence gets interested, so we will not hesitate if we are approached, to be on standby, but we have not actually decided to be on standby simply because there is a court ruling (about Zuma).
We have an interest, as the military, to look after strategic infrastructure,” Modise added.
The ministers are saying very clearly that the lessons of July will not be wasted, said Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele.
Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola called for calm and restraint after the court judgement about Zuma.
It is important that we allow the due processes of the law to take its course. Inflammatory statements and unwarranted attacks on the judiciary will not help the process, Lamola said, amid increasing social media threats about support for Zuma to be kept out of prison.
Lamola’s ministry has decided to appeal the high court decision, which Zuma’s lawyers already did on Wednesday.
Zuma had repeatedly shown disregard for the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and the country’s apex court, the Constitutional Court, which declared him to be in contempt and imposed the 15-month sentence.
Despite being on medical parole, Zuma has not remained at his rural Nkandla homestead but has been seen in public at several events, including at a casino, looking well. (PTI)