Former president Jacob Zuma, who was unlawfully released on medical parole, was admitted to the Estcourt Correctional Services on Friday morning and processed before he was released on remission of his 15-month sentence for contempt.

The former president went back to the Estcourt Correctional Facility early Friday morning, where he was re-admitted, processed, and released as a beneficiary of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s special remission of sentences he authorised in April.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said Zuma was considered a low-risk offender who is benefitting from the special remission of sentences.

Minister Lamola said President Ramaphosa approved the remission of non-violent offenders in South Africa to alleviate the serious overcrowding in prisons.

Presently there are 212 286 inmates, including 9 351 foreign nationals, managed by the Department of Correctional Services across the country’s 243 correctional facilities and 218 community centres.

“Unfortunately, the current occupancy rate is 143%, with the overcrowding rate at 43.06%,” said Minister Lamola.

“The recent loss of 3024 beds at Kutama Sinthumule due to fire means that overcrowding will increase by 4%, raising the overcrowding rate to 47.06% and in turn the occupancy rate will increase by 147 percent.”

The minister said overcrowding poses a direct threat to inmate health, security, and management, and it could lead to a surge in gangsterism.

“More importantly, it hampers the department’s ability to provide development and rehabilitation programs,” said Minister Lamola.

“The remission of sentences is a crucial aspect of our justice system, and Section 84 (2) (J) of the Constitution enables it.”

However, it’s important to note that certain offenders, such as those convicted of sexual offences, tampering with essential infrastructure, serving life sentences, and being declared dangerous criminals, are excluded from this criterion of this special remission.

Despite this, low-risk offenders in these categories may still be eligible for a 12-month remission.

Offenders convicted of non-violent and nonsexual crimes will be eligible for up to 24 months of remission after completing the pre-release program and risk assessment and providing fingerprints and DNA samples for comparison to the South African Police Service database.

This decision will result in the deportation of 3 064 foreign nationals serving short-term sentences under the guidance of the Department of Home Affairs.

Additionally, it will alleviate overcrowding in correctional centres by releasing approximately 9 488 inmates and a further 15 000 inmates who are currently under correctional supervision and parole.

“The majority of the beneficiaries of this decision are already serving parole or under correctional supervision in their communities,” Minister Lamola said.

“The exercise of exploring special remission commenced on 24 April 2023 when we lost approximately 1 112 bed space due to delipidation in most of our centres.”


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