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The infamous former South African president, Jacob Zuma, is set to appear in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday, 10 August 2021. The question, however, is Zuma really going to see his day in court, let alone sentence honoured, or is he going to pull a Schabir Shaik, using technicalities in “health issues”, to circumvent the juridical system?
On Friday, 6 August 2021, the former SA president was admitted to a hospital outside the Estcourt Correctional Centre, where he’s been serving his 15-month jail term.
Zuma was due to appear in court on corruption charges related to a 1999 arms deal made with French company Thales. The former head of state faces 16 counts of fraud, corruption, and racketeering. Furthermore, the arms manufacturer is also charged due to allegations of paying a R4 million bribe to Zuma.
Spokesperson for the Jacob Zuma Foundation, Mzwanele Manyi, assured this was no ploy, saying the former president was in a good state of mind and ready to take the stand when it would be his turn to give his version of events. But one cannot help wondering if Zuma is not trying to follow in Shaik’s footsteps?
For those of you who don’t remember, the Schabir Shaik trial was an extraordinary event—as the case proved the fraudulent and corrupt relationship between Durban-based businessman Schabir Shaik and Zuma. After Shaik’s brother, Chippy Shaik, was suspended from the Department of Defence for his involvement in a corrupt arms deal, Schabir Shaik was arrested in 2001 for the possession of secret documents, after which investigators found that he was involved in corrupt dealings with Zuma as well as fraud. He was brought to trial in October 2004, pleading not guilty.
Shaik’s writing off of Zuma’s significant personal loans in 1999 had raised suspicions about their financial activities. After Shaik’s appeal petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal failed, he started to serve his sentence of 15 years on 9 November 2006.
However, after serving only two years and four months of his sentence, Shaik was released on medical parole on 3 March 2009.
The head of cardiology at Inkosi Albert Lutuli hospital in Durban, Professor DP Naidoo, personally discharged Shaik in December 2008 because he was considered well enough to leave. However, Shaik remained in the ward until his parole. There have been several accusations of Shaik violating the terms of his parole – including staying at Thanda Private Game Reserve for three nights in June 2009.
Whereby the Department of Correctional Services said Shaik’s parole officer had permitted him to recuperate in the luxury lodge.
As Shaik has lived a relatively free parole, is Zuma trying to do one better and avoid serving any additional prison time, escaping the confines of a jail cell for medical reasons? The troubling reality is, if Zuma travels the road, claiming medical issues, and the courts begin to modify the rules to suit, then we as South Africans can be assured that this “get out of jail card” will be the module applied by all high-end criminals in the future in avoiding jail time.
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