A South African court has allowed former President Jacob Zuma to appeal a ruling that ordered him back to jail after being released in September on medical parole, meaning he will be able to spend Christmas at home.
Zuma, 79, was sentenced in June to 15 months in prison for contempt of court after ignoring instructions to participate in a corruption inquiry.
He handed himself in to begin his sentence on July 7, triggering some of the worst violence South Africa had seen in years.
Anger from supporters snowballed into broader outrage over hardship and inequalities that persist 27 years after the end of apartheid.
Zuma began medical parole in September, but earlier this month the Gauteng High Court in the capital, Pretoria, ordered that decision void and that he should return to jail, raising concerns about further violence.
The same court ruled on Tuesday his legal team should be able to appeal against the judgement at a higher court.
“In my view, this matter merits the Supreme Court of Appeal’s attention,” Judge Elias Matojane said.
He said another court may find that Zuma should be treated with “compassion, empathy and humanity” because of his ill health and advanced age.
Matojane previously ruled it should not.
“It means the court order cannot be enforced until the superior court hears the matter and makes a judgement,” Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo told Reuters news agency.
Test for South Africa
The legal processes against Zuma 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 against powerful individuals.
Zuma’s 2009-18 presidency was marred by allegations of corruption and wrongdoing.
He faces a separate corruption trial linked to his sacking as deputy president in 2005 when he was implicated in a $2bn allegedly corrupt arms deal.
He denies wrongdoing in all cases and says he is the victim of a political witch-hunt.