South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma, jailed for contempt of court last month, has been admitted to a hospital outside prison for “medical observation”, according to officials.
“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 Department of Correctional Services said in a statement on Friday.
No reason was given for the hospitalisation on Friday, apart from that it was prompted by “a routine observation”.
The department added that as a former president, Zuma’s healthcare needs required the involvement of the South African Military Health Service.
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 Twitter post.
The Foundation confirms the statement by Correctional Services that indeed H.E President Zuma is in Hospital outside the prison.
The 79 year old, 1st prisoner of the ConCourt, jailed without trial is attending to his annual medical routine check up. No need to be alarmed,…yet.
— JGZuma Foundation (Official) (@JGZ_Foundation) August 6, 2021
The admission came less than a week before the 79-year-old is due to attend the resumption of a long-running corruption trial.
The August 10 hearing will include a plea to drop 16 charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering against him related to the 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and equipment from five European arms firms when he was deputy president.
He is accused of taking bribes from one of the firms, French defence giant Thales, which has been charged with corruption and money laundering.
Zuma has pleaded not guilty and maintains he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt by his opponents.
In a separate case, Zuma was handed a 15-month jail sentence in late June for snubbing a commission probing state corruption during his nine years in office until 2018.
He started serving the sentence on July 8 at Estcourt prison, in the east of the country. 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’s legal team had used a range of reasons to turn down invitations to testify, including alleged bias, preparations for the corruption trial and medical concerns.
The former leader travelled to Cuba last year to receive treatment for an undisclosed illness.
Zuma has already been allowed to leave prison for 24 hours to attend his brother’s funeral last month.