/ 22 October 2022

What’s wrong with my health? Zuma asks reporters at media briefing

Former president Jacob Zuma
Former president Jacob Zuma. File photo

Former president Jacob Zuma has tainted the credibility of his medical parole after telling journalists on Saturday afternoon that he was not lying sick in a hospital bed and was thus available to stand for a top position in the governing party. 

During a media briefing held in Johannesburg, the former statesman reiterated that he would not decline should ANC members choose to elect him to a top-six position in the ANC at the party’s upcoming congress. 

Zuma is engaged in a legal battle to privately prosecute the veteran state prosecutor in his arms deal graft trial, Billy Downer, and News24 journalist Karyn Maughan, for allegedly colluding to publish his “confidential” medical records. 

Eighty-year-old Zuma was placed on medical parole based on a report from his South African military health services physicians. 

The former director general of correctional services, Arthur Fraser, granted Zuma medical parole less than two months after he was jailed for 15 months for contempt of court and despite advice from the Medical Parole Advisory Board that Zuma did not qualify for early release.

Zuma’s release on medical parole sparked outrage as many questioned the validity of the decision.

In December, judge Elias Matojane ruled that Zuma’s release was unlawful and ordered his return to prison to serve the remainder of his 15-month sentence. The former president immediately took the matter on appeal and a decision is awaited from the Supreme Court of Appeal. 

While Zuma’s medical parole hinges on his alleged severe medical condition/terminal illness, he suggested that he was well enough to run for an ANC leadership position. 

When asked by a journalist at Saturday’s media briefing if he would take into consideration his ill health and age if he chose to contest the December elective conference, he responded: “What’s wrong with the health, just tell me, what’s wrong with the health? Looking at me, am I in the bed lying in a hospital?” 

Zuma has previously stated that he will abide by the decision of ANC branches should they nominate him to contest the position of party national chairperson in December. 

He reiterated this statement and added he had heard that he was nominated for the president and deputy president positions. 

Zuma said that his age did not preclude him from again leading the party. 

“I hear I’ve been nominated and we have not sat at a meeting to say if I’m standing or not standing. I’m told I’m being nominated as a president and as a vice president. There must be good reasons why they are doing so.

“I’ve not said yes or no because they are doing their job. Once the ANC takes a decision about me, who am I to defy it? If ANC  members said ‘we want Jacob Zuma to come and do this’, who am I to say no?” he asked.  

In a Mail & Guardian interview earlier this month, former ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli criticised Zuma for endorsing his ex-wife, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, for the position of party president.  

Ntuli said he did not agree with Zuma’s actions. 

“It diminishes the standing and the prestige of that leader of the ANC because given the seniority that they occupy in the movement, these are comrades that would be expected from time to time to rein in the sitting leadership when it veers off.”