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What you missed

What you missed

A lot happened while we took our two-week break and we’ve been itching to break it down for you guys. So here goes:

🔹Zuma flies the coop

Probably the biggest news while we were away was the bombshell on 5 September that former president Jacob Zuma was granted medical parole. He served only 58 days of his 15-month jail sentence for refusing to testify at the state capture inquiry. 

The early Christmas present was given to Zuma by one of his former allies, correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser. Fraser made the decision despite the recommendations of the Medical Parole Board, which had denied Zuma parole. 

Fraser is legally within his rights to do this but … it looks bad. As the M&G pointed out, President Cyril Ramaphosa removed Fraser from his position as spy boss in the State Security Agency to the (supposedly) more innocuous position at correctional services. It turns out that reshuffling those old Zuma appointees had consequences. 

The DA, AfriForum and the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) are challenging the decision in various ways but, given the wording of the legislation, Fraser is probably in the clear. It sucks, we know, but we’re not the only country with these get-out-of-jail loopholes for the powerful. Former US President Donald Trump infamously handed out 144 pardons and sentence commutations less than 12 hours before the end of his presidency, freeing several well-connected Trump allies.  

So Zuma has been a free man since 5 September 2021. However, he’s not out of the woods yet. He still faces criminal proceedings in the courts, including the ongoing arms deal trial. But some legal experts have said that even if he is found guilty he may not face jail time because he was granted medical parole. This is because it is unlikely that his health will have improved by the time his trials end. Still, it’s important that justice is seen to be done. 

🔹Texas abortion ban

You’ve probably heard about this one and it’s pretty distressing. On 1 September, Texan lawmakers managed to pass an extremely regressive abortion law that the country’s top court declined to strike down. As activists put it, the law “places a bounty on people who provide or aid abortions, inviting random strangers to sue them”.  😲

It effectively criminalises those helping a woman have an abortion after six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant, making no exception for victims of rape and incest. 

This is an assault on the nation’s federal values by a very conservative state, but is structured in a way that is very difficult to take on – even for US president Joe Biden, who is pro-choice.  

The state doesn’t have to enforce the law. Instead it allows for private citizens to sue facilities that provide abortions as well as anyone who aids in an abortion – from the Uber driver who may drop off the patient to insurance companies, doctors and nurses – and offers a reward of up to USD 10,000. Abortion patients themselves, however, cannot be sued.

One of Texas’ largest anti-abortion groups launched a website to receive tips about suspected violations and says it has attorneys ready to bring lawsuits

Wherever you stand on the issue of abortion, the bottom line is that this law is a near declaration of war on women’s bodies. And it is the poorest, most vulnerable women, driven to dangerous back-alley abortions, who will suffer most. Several court challenges are under way to stop it. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap,16 September 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.

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