South Africa’s jailed former President Jacob Zuma has been granted compassionate leave for one day to attend the funeral of his younger brother, prison authorities said.
Zuma, 79, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court last month after snubbing fraud investigators probing his presidency from 2009 until 2018.
He has been jailed at Estcourt prison since handing himself over to authorities in the early hours of July 8. The prison is close to his rural home at Nkandla in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province, where funeral proceedings for Zuma’s brother, Michael, are expected to be held on Thursday.
“As a short-term, low-risk classified inmate, Mr Zuma’s application for compassionate leave was processed and approved,” the Department of Correctional Services said in a statement, adding that while outside the prison, Zuma was not required to wear the offenders’ uniform.
Inmates in South Africa are usually allowed to attend relatives’ funerals – a right denied to the country’s first Black President Nelson Mandela when he was in jail for fighting the apartheid regime.
Zuma’s brother died aged 77 after a long illness, according to local media.
Sporadic pro-Zuma protests broke out when Zuma handed himself over and escalated into riots involving looting and arson that President Cyril Ramaphosa has described as an “insurrection”.
The unrest swept across Kwa-Zulu Natal and the country’s economic heartland province of Gauteng, killing 276 people and destroying hundreds of businesses.
Thousands of soldiers were deployed to help quell the violence, among the worst since the ruling African National Congress (ANC) won South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 to replace white minority rule.
Zuma’s long-running corruption trial is expected to resume on August 10, despite his request to have the case postponed due to the pandemic and recent unrest.
He faces 16 charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering, and has entered a not guilty plea. He retains a fervent support base, both within the ANC and among the general public.