South Africa’s jailed former president, Jacob Zuma, was admitted to hospital for medical observation on Friday, the government’s Correctional Services department said.
Zuma has been held at Estcourt prison in Kwa-Zulu Natal province since handing himself over on July 7 to serve a 15-month sentence for contempt of court. His jailing led to South Africa’s worst outbreak of violence in years.
Zuma’s foundation, while confirming that he was in hospital, said it was for his annual routine medical check-up.
“No need to be alarmed, … yet,” the foundation said in a tweet.
Correctional Services said in a statement earlier that a routine observation at the prison had prompted authorities to take Zuma to an outside hospital for further examination.
“Everyone who is detained, including every sentenced prisoner, has the right to conditions of detention that are consistent with human dignity, including … medical treatment,” the statement said.
It added that, because he was a former president, Zuma’s healthcare needs required the involvement of South African Military Health Services.
Zuma, 79, was jailed for defying a Constitutional Court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office until 2018.
When Zuma handed himself in, protests by his supporters escalated into riots involving looting and arson that President Cyril Ramaphosa described as an “insurrection”.
Zuma, who was briefly permitted to leave jail on July 22 to attend the funeral of his younger brother, is due to appear in public again on Tuesday for his arms deal corruption trial.
In this case, he is accused of receiving kickbacks over a $2 billion arms deal from the 1990s. He pleaded not guilty in May to charges including corruption, fraud and money laundering.
He has evaded prosecution for more than a decade, and portrayed himself as the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.
Efforts to prosecute him are seen as a test of South Africa’s ability to hold powerful politicians to account.
Photo: (FILE) – Former South African President Jacob Zuma. EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK