Zuma’s Freedom Day gift

2012-04-28 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma yesterday gave several prisoners and parolees a Freedom Day gift, announcing a special remission of their sentences.

Zuma made the announcement during his address at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, which was also attended by visiting Malawian President Joyce Banda.

Earlier in the day the carnival atmosphere — that saw bikers, drum majorettes, performing artists and musicians entertain the crowd — was briefly disrupted by a small group chanting anti-Zuma songs.

They sang “Zuma where is Malema?” referring to expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema who was booted from the party earlier this week.

It is the first time that Zuma’s administration has granted remission of sentence to prisoners.

His predecessors, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, had done so in 1994, 1995, 1998 and 2005.

“The categories and the lengths of reduction will be based on the decision of cabinet in relation to the previous special remission of 2005,” said Zuma.

Categories will include:

• A six-month blanket special remission of sentence to all sentenced offenders, probationers and parolees.

• A 12-month special remission of sentence for all sentenced inmates, probationers and parolees, excluding sentenced offenders, probationers and parolees who have been sentenced for aggressive, sexual, firearm and drug-related offences.

Ministers in the justice, corrections, police and security cluster will announce further details today.

In his reaction, Democratic Alliance correctional services spokesperson James Selfe said his party was in principle opposed to the remission of sentences.

“It is a slap in the face for victims of crime, and their families.

“In addition, it diminishes the deterrent effect of sentences.”

However, the DA acknowledged prisons faced serious overcrowding, and measures needed to be taken to manage overcrowding downwards.

“There are much more imaginative ways in which overcrowding can be addressed, for example through the use of alternative community-based sentencing, which enables perpetrators to pay back into society what they have taken out through acts of crime,” Selfe added.

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