State fast-tracks parole of political prisoners

2015-05-22 13:32
Minister Michael Masutha.

Minister Michael Masutha. (Lisa Hnatowicz/Foto24)

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Twenty-one years on, the government is fast-tracking parole of political prisoners who are still languishing in jail for crimes committed in the course of political activity before the emergence of the democratic dispensation. 

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha revealed this week that he had instructed all the correctional regions to fast-track the parole process for qualifying parole candidates by taking them through all the programmes that are a pre-condition for people to qualify for parole.

“That’s because we don’t just grant parole, we grant parole on people who have been through programmes and have been assessed to qualify for parole.”

The department wants to make sure that those political detainees who deserve to be on parole under normal parole procedures are considered for parole, instead of waiting for the presidential pardons process.

Masutha said this development followed from a political understanding reached in 2007, when a multiparty reference group was formed under the then president Thabo Mbeki.

It had to advise the president on who should receive pardons because of their past political activities, people who committed crimes in the course of their political activity and who may not have benefited from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process.

Masutha said about 2000 applicants came forward of which only 149 were identified as qualifying by that multiparty reference group. The process was held back by numerous court challenges.

“We as corrections, [correctional services] took it upon ourselves to look into that list specifically and say how many of those are still in our correctional facilities and we came to a significantly lower number because some in the interim completed their sentences and others got parole in the normal cause.

“We then embarked on a process of fast-tracking finalisation of parole applications of those that are still in our correctional facilities as contributing in the interim while the issue of presidential pardons is still being resolved,” he added.

Masutha established a task team in November last year to “revitalise and conclude” on political prisoners.

This week he said the task team had taken stock of the scope of work, starting with the restorative justice elements of the programme, including victim and family consultations, as well as engaging non-governmental organisations and political parties. 

He said known applicants are those who have completed their sentences, those who have been placed on parole and those still incarcerated.

The Pan Africanist Congress has been campaigning for years for the release of its members who remain imprisoned.


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