300 pardon applications for Zuma

2010-01-06 22:14

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has more than 300 applications for pardons awaiting his attention, the presidency said on Wednesday.

There has been speculation in the media about the possibility of pardons being granted to Zuma's former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, convicted of fraud; former Vlakplaas death-squad leader Eugene de Kock and Clive Derby-Lewis, convicted of conspiring to kill SA Communist Party general secretary Chris Hani.

"The presidency has noted the media reports and commentary relating to possible presidential pardons," it said in a statement, adding that Zuma was empowered by the Constitution to pardon or reprieve offenders.

"The department of justice and constitutional development routinely receives the applications for processing and forwards these to the presidency for consideration by the Head of State," it said.

'From all walks of life'

The applications presently before Zuma were South Africans "from all walks of life who have violated the laws of the land".

The presidency said the applicants would, once their applications were finalised, be notified of the outcome "through normal procedures".

In June 2005, Shaik was sentenced to 15 years on two counts of corruption, including soliciting an arms deal bribe for the then deputy president Zuma, and to three years for fraud. The sentences were to run concurrently.

He started serving his sentence in November 2006, but was released on parole in March last year on medical grounds, for being in the "last stages of a terminal illness".

De Kock was sentenced, in October 1996, to two life sentences and 212 years' imprisonment on 89 charges, including six of murder. He has served 13 years.

Debt to society 'not paid'

In an urgent letter to Zuma on Wednesday, civil rights group AfriForum warned that granting Shaik a pardon would undermine the impression that a supreme and independent justice system was upholding and promoting democracy.

It would instead create the belief that people with powerful friends and connections were above the law in South Africa, said its deputy chief executive officer Alana Bailey.

The Democratic Alliance on Tuesday said neither Shaik nor De Kock had paid their debt to society and that their release would run counter to the public interest.

"Any decision to pardon these two criminals would constitute a devastating blow to the rule of law in South Africa," said party correctional services spokesperson James Selfe.

The Sunday Independent reported earlier this month that Zuma might be considering a presidential pardon for De Kock, after allegedly meeting him in secret at Pretoria Central Prison in April last year.

Spokesmen in the presidency and the ANC however denied any knowledge of the meeting.

SACP against Derby-Lewis parole

The newspaper reported that, in exchange for a pardon, De Kock had indicated he would help any new investigation into apartheid-era atrocities, including the recovery of bodies of victims of the security forces.

The South African Communist Party had described Derby-Lewis's pardon application as "political opportunism", arrogant and an abuse of the country's constitutional democracy, reported The Citizen on Tuesday.

However, Derby-Lewis's attorney Marius Coertze told the newspaper: "The president is a magnanimous man. We are ever hopeful."

Derby-Lewis, 73, was sentenced to death for conspiring with Polish immigrant Janusz Walus to kill Hani, who was shot dead on April 10 1993. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when the death penalty was abolished in 1995.

An application for his parole was dismissed by the High Court in Pretoria in March last year, by which time he had served 15 years.