ConCourt to rule on pardons

2009-08-24 20:03

Cape Town - Arguments will be heard in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday on whether 384 prisoners, some serving sentences for murder and robbery, are entitled to apply for political pardons.

Inkatha Freedom Party chief whip Koos van der Merwe said on Monday he hoped the matter would "finally be resolved" six years after applications for presidential pardons were made.

"Most of them are in jail for serious crimes, such as murder and robbery - allegedly political," Van der Merwe told Sapa.

"Not all of them are IFP members. But the point is that in six years the department of justice has done nothing.

"Even if only five of the prisoners qualify for a pardon, then they will have languished in prison for nothing."

Dept 'incompetent'

Van der Merwe said the ministry of justice had been incompetent and arrogant in dealing with the issue.

"The gross violation of the human rights of these prisoners reflects badly on South Africa as a whole.

"Government's deliberate lack of action is clearly a violation of the spirit of our Constitution and we are therefore confident that the court will rule in our favour."

The prisoners first applied for pardons six years ago, but their applications were dismissed on "technical grounds".

The IFP then took the issue to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) which ordered former justice minister Brigitte Mabandla to finalise the applications within three months.

The IFP took Mabandla to court after she ignored the SAHRC ruling.

"Subsequently, the IFP took the matter to the High Court of South Africa who also made a ruling against Mabandla ordering her to finalise the matter within three months," Van der Merwe said.

"She ignored the ruling and applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which was granted."

Five judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal unanimously rejected Mabandla's appeal.

Mabandla then appealed to the Constitutional Court.

Complaint laid with Amnesty International

The IFP had laid a complaint against former president Thabo Mbeki and Mabandla with Amnesty International.

Van der Merwe said the IFP's lawyer had informed him that President Jacob Zuma had filed an affidavit on the case late on Monday.
"They have had six years to do something about this, but they leave it until late in the final afternoon on the day before the case.

"It is remarkably incompetent."