The leader of the ruling ANC in South Africa Jacob Zuma today set aside the Opposition's allegations that his Indian-origin comrade and business friend Schabir Shaik was released from prison because of his political influence.
Zuma was speaking here over the ongoing controversy surrounding Shaik's release from prison on medical parole.
Shaik was convicted to 15 years in jail in 2006 for bank-rolling Zuma over the 10-year period from 1995 in an attempt to gain political favours and government contracts.
He was released just over two weeks ago after Zuma, in an earlier interview, stated that when he became president after the April 22 general elections, he would consider releasing Shaik if the law allowed it.
But the Opposition parties and the Human Rights bodies are alleging that Shaik was released because of his political influence and demanding a review of the decision.
"What has saddened me is how South Africans could be mean about somebody's life. Why is there such a problem when medical doctors who were working with the man say 'this man is sick, he needs to be out of prison'?," said Zuma.
South Africans were behaving as if Shaik was a mass murderer whose release would harm other people, he said.
"It is a very negative side of South Africans that I find very saddening," Zuma said.
"Even if people cannot see the official report because of issues around patient doctor confidentiality, they should have faith in the process that has been followed.
You can't say so many officials, all the way up to the minister, were all corrupt and dishonest and wanted to smuggle a prisoner out, it can't be," said Zuma.
Meanwhile, Shaik's family in Durban have lashed out at the media for wishing Shaik's death so that his illness could be proved.
His wife, Zulheikha, told the Sunday Tribune newspaper in Durban that her husband was gravely ill and they wanted to be left alone to lead their lives with "privacy and dignity".
She said that her husband was innocent as he had done nothing wrong.
He hasn't harmed anyone. He hasn't robbed anyone and neither has he murdered anyone, she told the newspaper.