Pretoria – Nine government officials arrested on Friday have been accused of illegally releasing at least 36 parolees over the period of a year so that they could escape deportation.
Police Minister Bheki Cele, at a press briefing in Pretoria on Monday, told reporters that officials from the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Correctional Services had aided and abetted the parolees through falsifying documentation.
Cele was accompanied by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha.
"The foreign parolees, most of whom were drug smugglers or drug mules, had to be released and deported to their country of origin through Lindela Repatriation Centre," said Cele.
Instead, he said, the parolees were sent directly to the Johannesburg Department of Home Affairs regional office for a non-procedural and illegal release.
"Moreover, the benefit of this for the parolees is that they would be free to do as they please, they would not need to report to the authorities of their country of origin, and some would continue with their smuggling activities."
'Officials would demand bribes'
Cele said investigations had revealed that the officials were paid in cash or into their bank accounts by the parolees’ families or friends.
"At times, the officials would demand bribes of the amount of R3 000 for those from African countries and R6 000 for those from outside Africa, i.e. South American countries," said Cele.
Some of those illegally released left South Africa through their own expenses and some remained in South Africa to avoid deportation, he added.
Six of the parolees who were released had been re-arrested, Cele said.
The minister said the six parolees who were re-arrested included three Guyana nationals from South America who were arrested for narcotics-related offences, one Zambian who was incarcerated for narcotics, and two Zimbabweans who were arrested for theft.
The investigation – which was a joint operation involving home affairs, correctional services and the South African Police Service – revealed that their plan involved fraudulent documents from both correctional services and home affairs.
According to Cele, officials from correctional services created fraudulent parole documents, which then enabled home affairs officials to create false release documents, which assisted the parolees to either flee South Africa or remain in the country.