Justice minister leaves Arthur Fraser to handle the fallout over Jacob Zuma's medical parole
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The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, has legally distanced himself from the recently granted medical parole of former president Jacob Zuma, saying he was not involved.
Responding to questions from Independent Media on Thursday on whether Fraser was correct in overriding the decision of the internal parole board to free Zuma on medical grounds, and if he was legally wrong according to the department’s rule book, are they going to take action against him, Lamola’s spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri, said the minister’s hands were tied.
Phiri said according to the law, Lamola only got to have a say in parole in matters when the offender was a serving life sentence.
“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 centre,” Phiri said on behalf of Lamola.
On Sunday, the Department of Correctional Services, where Fraser is the head of department, granted Zuma medical parole.
The department cited Zuma’s alleged sickness that saw him being whisked out of his Estcourt prison cell by the military health services to receive treatment at a facility in Pretoria.
The move prompted the likes of the DA, Helen Suzman Foundation and AfriForum to challenge the decision as irrational, and they demanded answers.
Further raising eyebrows over the matter was Fraser’s own admission during an interview with a news channel this week that he overruled the parole board to grant Zuma parole.
He narrated the events leading up to his decision to override the institution tasked with considering whether or not prisoners had a valid reason to seek parole on medical grounds.
Among the steps were that three medical opinions had been 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 got health care and then we 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 … of the patient, recommendations were made to the medical parole advisory board … the board did not approve for 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, 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, on Thursday said they had written to the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee, Bulelani Magwanishe, to request that the committee meet 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.