JOHANNESBURG — Former South African president Jacob Zuma will be allowed to leave prison Thursday to attend his brother’s funeral.
Zuma will be permitted to wear civilian clothes at the funeral and afterwards will return to the Estcourt prison in eastern South Africa, according to a statement issued by the correctional services department.
Zuma’s brother, Michael, died last week and will be buried in their home province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Zuma is currently serving a 15-month sentence for defying an order from the Constitutional Court, the country’s highest court, that he should testify at the commission of inquiry probing allegations of corruption during his term as president from 2009 to 2018.
The start of Zuma’s imprisonment on July 8 sparked off protests which quickly escalated into violent riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces that lasted a week.
South Africa’s widespread poverty and inequality contributed to the wave of unrest which saw widespread ransacking of shopping centers, the burning of freight trucks, and the barricading of two of the country’s major highways.
The death toll in the unrest has risen to 276, and police are investigating 168 of those for murder, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, acting minister in the presidency, has announced. Although many people were trampled in stampedes at shopping malls when shops were looted, the police investigations of murder indicate that many deaths may have been caused by shootings and other intentional acts. Amnesty International is also investigating the deaths.
The economic cost of South Africa’s unrest is still being calculated. The damage in KwaZulu-Natal province is estimated at 20 billion rand ($1.37 billion). There, more than 150 shopping malls, 11 warehouses, and eight factories were badly damaged. The damage in Gauteng province is still being assessed.
Separate from his sentence for contempt of court, Zuma is standing trial for corruption stemming from a South African arms purchase in 1999. That case has been postponed until August 10, while the judge decides if Zuma should be permitted to attend the trial in person at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
In that case, Zuma is accused of receiving bribes from French arms manufacturer Thales through his former financial advisor Schabir Shaik. Shaik was convicted on related charges in 2005 and served time in prison.
Zuma has also appealed to the Constitutional Court to rescind his sentence for contempt of court, arguing that errors were made in his conviction and sentencing. The court has not yet said when it will rule on Zuma’s application.
Zuma refused to testify before the judicial inquiry into corruption during his years as president. Several witnesses, including former Cabinet ministers and the heads of state-owned corporations, have testified that Zuma had allowed his associates, members of the Gupta family, to influence his Cabinet appointments and the awarding of lucrative state contracts.