South Africa's ex-president Zuma granted medical parole

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South Africa's former President Jacob Zuma at his trial
Jacob Zuma is due to appear in court on Thursday

South Africa's jailed former President Jacob Zuma has been granted medical parole.

The 79-year-old is serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court at Estcourt Correctional Centre.

The nature of his illness was not specified, but a statement said he would complete the rest of his sentence in the community under special conditions.

Zuma has been in hospital for the past month where he has undergone surgery.

He will remain there until he has been discharged.

Zuma handed himself in to police in July after being sentenced for failing to attend an inquiry into corruption during his presidency.

His jailing was unprecedented for an ex-president, sparking violent protests and looting.

Though he was forced out of office by his own party in 2018, the African National Congress (ANC), he retains a loyal body of supporters, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Zuma was sentenced on 29 June for defying an instruction to give evidence at an inquiry into corruption during his nine years in power. He has testified only once at the inquiry into what has become known as "state capture" - meaning the siphoning off of state assets.

Businessmen have been accused of conspiring with politicians to influence the decision-making process while he was in office. Zuma has repeatedly said he is the victim of a political conspiracy.

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The decision to grant him parole was compelled by a medical report to South Africa's prison department, it said.

He also faces a separate corruption trial, which is due to resume on 9 September.

Zuma's medical parole could only be revoked if he does not comply with the placement conditions, Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said.

"We want to reiterate that placement on medical parole is an option available to all sentenced offenders provided they meet all the requirements. We appeal to all South Africans to afford Zuma dignity as he continues to receive medical treatment," said Mr Nxumalo.

Zuma's spokesman said he had not spoken to the former president since the news broke, but that "he should have been relieved".

His imprisonment had worsened his health, the spokesman told news agency AFP, having "an exponential impact in terms of deteriorating his condition".

South Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, criticised the parole as "entirely unlawful and makes a mockery" of prison regulations.

Zuma's legal woes:

  • 2005: Charged with raping family friend - acquitted in 2006

  • 2005: Charged with corruption over multi-billion dollar 1999 arms deal - charges dropped shortly before he becomes president in 2009

  • 2016: Court orders he should be charged with 18 counts of corruption over the deal - he appeals, but in 2017 loses a bid to overturn them

  • 2016: Court rules he breached his oath of office by using government money to upgrade private home in Nkandla - he repays the money

  • 2017: Public protector says he should appoint judge-led inquiry into allegations he profiteered from relationship with wealthy Gupta family - he denies allegations, as do the Guptas

  • 2018: Zuma approves inquiry into claims of state looting

  • 2018: The National Prosecuting Authority confirms Zuma will face prosecution for 12 charges of fraud, one of racketeering, two of corruption, and one of money laundering, relating to the arms deal, which he denies

  • 2021: Begins a 15-month jail sentence after the Constitutional Court orders his arrest for refusing to testify at the commission into state looting

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