Parole applications under the spotlight
Cape Town - Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will from Monday begin to consider parole applications of inmates sentenced before March 1 1994.
Spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga said on Friday that the decision had been taken after a Constitutional Court judgment that the National Council on Correctional Services (NCCS) be excluded from the process of parole consideration of inmates sentenced before March 1 1994.
This meant that the minister will consider the placement of lifers falling within this time period without the involvement of the NCCS - the umbrella body of all parole boards and the minister's chief "advisor.
"The Minister of Correctional Services approached the Constitutional Court at the beginning of the year to ask the court to clarify the order it handed down on September 30 2010.
"The clarification was sought as to whether the NCCS still had a role to fulfil in the processing of lifers sentenced before March 1 1994.
"The NCCS had raised the matter of its role as an advisory body to the minister in processing the parole applications of offenders serving life sentences affected by the [Constitutional] Court's decision after having studied the September 30 2010 judgement of Van Vuuren v The Minister of Correctional Services and Others.
"The NCCS had interpreted the judgement to mean that Minister Mapisa-Nqakula should decide on the parole applications of this group of offenders without the advisory body's assistance, since the court's instruction did not mention the NCCS directly," said Sonwabo.
He said the Constitutional Court handed down judgment on Thursday indicating that its main judgment of September 30 2010 was clear in that it applied only to those inmates sentenced to life before the introduction of the 20-year minimum detention period on March 1 1994.
The NCCS will not deal with the consideration of lifers for placement on parole until at least 2014.
Sonwabo said the minister will begin with the 95 parole applications that had already been processed and were ready to be adjudicated on.
Mapisa-Nqakula will announce her decision on those applications on April 8.
She intends to conclude the consideration of parole applications of all 385 lifers by May 15.
"Where necessary lifers that will be considered may be temporarily moved to one facility to allow for the easy completion of this work by Correctional Supervision and Parole Boards as opposed to parole boards spending valuable time on travel," said Sonwabo.
He warned that being considered for parole did not mean parole would be granted.
"As parole is a privilege dependent on specific and certain qualifying criteria and not a right.