Former South African President Jacob Zuma has been released from prison on medical parole due to ill health, the government’s correctional services department said Sunday.
Zuma, 79, has been serving a 15-month prison sentence since July for contempt of court after defying a summons to appear at an inquiry into corruption during his time in office.
“Medical parole placement for Mr 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,” South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services (DCS) said in a statement on Sunday.
Last month, Zuma was admitted to an outside hospital where he underwent surgeries for an undisclosed ailment, according to prison authorities.
The DCS said it was “impelled” to grant Zuma medical parole after receiving a medical report.
“Apart from being terminally ill and physically incapacitated, inmates suffering from an illness that severely limits their daily activity or self-care can also be considered for medical parole,” the statement said.
The DCS appealed to South Africans “to afford Mr Zuma dignity as he continues to receive medical treatment.”
Deadly violence erupted in South Africa in July after Zuma handed himself in to custody, triggering widespread protests and looting as soldiers and police struggled to restore order. It was some of the worst violence the country had seen in years.
Zuma’s successor, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, said the unrest was “instigated” and that that he would not allow “anarchy and mayhem to unfold in the country.”
Zuma served as president from 2009 to 2018 and was once widely celebrated as a key figure in the country’s liberation movement. He spent 10 years in prison with anti-apartheid hero and former President Nelson Mandela.
But his nine years in power were marred with allegations of high-level corruption, which he has repeatedly denied.
Zuma is accused of corruption involving three businessmen close to him – brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta – and allowing them to influence government policy, including the hiring and firing of ministers to align with the family’s business interests. The Guptas deny wrongdoing but left South Africa after Zuma was ousted from the presidency.