JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -South Africa’s high court ordered former President Jacob Zuma to return to jail, after setting aside an earlier decision to release him on medical parole, a court judgment showed on Wednesday.
The 79-year old began medical parole in September, and is serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court, after he ignored instructions to participate in a corruption inquiry.
In the same month, South Africa’s top court dismissed a bid by Zuma to overturn the sentence.
The legal processes against him for alleged corruption during his nine-year reign are widely viewed as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law, particularly against powerful, well-connected people.
Zuma handed himself in on July 7 to begin his prison sentence, triggering the worst violence South Africa had seen in years as his angry supporters took to the streets.
The protests widened into looting and an outpouring of anger over the hardship and inequality that persist in South Africa 27 years after the end of apartheid. More than 300 people were killed and thousands of businesses were pillaged and razed.
Zuma’s legal team are appealing the latest court ruling, as is the country’s prisons department.
“The judgment is clearly wrong & there are strong prospects that a higher court will come to a totally different conclusion,” Zuma’s charitable foundation wrote on Twitter.
The Department of Correctional Services said in a statement that it would elaborate on its grounds for appeal at a later date.
Zuma’s presidency between 2009-2018 was marred by widespread allegations of graft and wrongdoing, and he faces a separate corruption trial linked to his sacking as deputy president in 2005 when he was implicated in a $2 billion government arms deal.
That trial against Zuma, which has been held up for many years, on multiple charges including corruption, racketeering and money laundering, is expected to continue next year.
He denies wrongdoing in all cases and say he is the victim of a political witchhunt meant to marginalise his faction within the ruling African National Congress. The party said only that it noted the judgment.
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by James Macharia Chege and Hugh Lawson)