In the aftermath of former president Jacob Zuma going to jail, authorities were at pains to send a clear message: South Africa’s rule of law must be respected and adhered to, even while he is a prisoner.

“He is in good spirits,” said Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola on Thursday, 8 July.

He was briefing the media outside the Estcourt Correctional Centre where Zuma spent the first night of his 15-month jail sentence.

Lamola held the briefing just after midday to discuss the process of the former president’s incarceration.

He had seen and spoken to Zuma, who had eaten his breakfast and taken his medication.

When asked by journalists whether Zuma would wear orange overalls, Lamola asked Mpumi Hadebe, head of the Estcourt Correctional Centre, to answer. “Of course,” she said.

Lamola explained the process of Zuma’s incarceration: he would be placed in isolation for 14 days in line with Covid-19 measures and assessed by the department’s medical team along with the South African Military Health Service, which would determine the conditions of his incarceration.

“This assessment is done to determine the major risks and needs of the offender.”

“All of these systems are in place to ensure that incarceration is done in a manner which is not retributive, but humane,” said Lamola.

It was also confirmed that Zuma would be eligible for parole after he has served a quarter of his sentence.

“We want to assure all South Africans that former president Zuma will be afforded dignity throughout his term of incarceration.”

Hadebe said Zuma would be treated like any prisoner: he would be allowed four visits per month, including physical appearances, in line with current Covid-19 regulations.

He would have access to television in prison, as all prisoners do, but not a cellphone since prisoners are barred from having those.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months after he was found guilty of contempt of court owing to his consistent refusal to answer questions before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo at the State Capture Commission.

Zuma spent the night at the correctional center, which was confirmed by the Department of Correctional Services

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