SA taxpayers will foot bill for Zuma’s perks despite conviction, says law expert

The Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act guarantees Zuma, who was the country’s president between 2009 and 2018, certain benefits including medical aid for life.

FILE: Former President Jacob Zuma at the state capture commission on 17 July 2019. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - The South African taxpayer will not only be financing former President Jacob Zuma’s stay in prison but will also continue footing the bill for his several perks as a former head of state.

The Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act guarantees Zuma, who was the country’s president between 2009 and 2018, certain benefits including medical aid for life.

Zuma is serving a 15-month sentence at the Estcourt Correctional Services facility for failing to uphold the law when he refused to appear before the commission investigating corruption and fraud in the public sector.

Wits University law professor, Stuart Woolman, said that the South African Constitution was intended to make a deeper and profound point that the country promotes ubuntu, community and restorative justice.

And this is why Section 89 of the Constitution, which deals with the punitive measures meted out against an impeached president, includes stripping them of any benefits of the office including pensions but is silent on what would happen if a former president is convicted of a crime.

“And no where does it make mention of a loss of benefits due to malfeasance or obstruction of the law,” Woolman said.

However, Woolman said at the end of the day, as per the prescripts of the Remunerations Act, whether the country maintained the status quo or not in the light of the incarceration of Zuma was up to the National Assembly.

Woolman explained that the country’s law was not purely punitive, which was why prisoners were allowed to vote after the prolific August Constitutional Court judgment, which cemented their human rights.

Earlier on Thursday, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola told journalists that Zuma had been remanded in the prison hospital where he would stay in isolation for 14 days.

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