DURBAN: South Africa’s jailed ex-president Jacob Zuma was granted compassionate leave from prison on Thursday so he can attend his brother’s funeral, the government said.
Zuma, 79, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court last month after snubbing graft investigators probing his presidency.
He turned himself in on July 8 at a jail in the eastern town of Estcourt, around an hour’s drive from his rural Nkandla home.
His incarceration sparked riots and looting that escalated into the worst violence since the end of apartheid, killing at least 276 people, according to the official count.
“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 Thursday.
It added that inmates were not required to wear “offender uniform” outside correctional facilities.
The funeral for Zuma’s brother Michael is expected to take place later on Thursday in Nkandla, where Zuma is particularly popular.
Zuma’s brother died aged 77 after a long illness, according to local media.
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.
After nine years in office, Zuma was ousted by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in 2018 over a series of graft scandals that arose during his presidency.
The charismatic ex-leader retains a fervent support base both within the ANC and among the general public.
Zuma is also on trial for allegedly taking kickbacks from an arms deal with several international companies in 1999, when he was deputy president.
He fervently denies any wrongdoing. — AFP