Home South African Cyril’s pardons a ‘slap in the face’

Cyril’s pardons a ‘slap in the face’

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The president announced a decision to remit the sentence expiry dates of specific categories of sentenced offenders, probationers and parolees across all correctional facilities in the country.

THE APPROXIMATELY 14 000 convicted criminals who have received a special remission of sentence, including many from Kimberley, will not include sexual offenders, murderers, armed robbers, dangerous offenders, those serving a life sentence or those who have been found guilty of domestic violence or child abuse.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said yesterday that correctional facilities should not only be seen as buildings to keep offenders away from society, but also as correctional centres that rehabilitate offenders in order to reintegrate them back into their communities.

Lamola made these remarks following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa during the Day of Reconciliation commemoration in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal on Monday.

The president announced a decision to remit the sentence expiry dates of specific categories of sentenced offenders, probationers and parolees across all correctional facilities in the country.

According to the department, remission of sentence is a power vested in the president by the Constitution and the Correctional Services Act to cut a sentence short. It also means it fast tracks the dates upon which an inmate will be placed on parole, subject to meeting a set criteria.

“The decision taken by the president is in line with established international practice and informed by powers given to him by section 84 (2)(j) of the Constitution, which provides that the president is responsible for pardoning or reprieving offenders and remitting any fines, penalties or forfeitures,” Lamola said.

The process will include all Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster departments, including the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) who will be verifying the details of every eligible offender.

It is estimated that the special remission process will run from the date of pronouncement by the president, in a phased approach, until successful completion in order to ensure the smooth reintegration of offenders into society.

The process will commence with the release of women, children, youth and people with disabilities and will then move on to other categories of offenders.

Attendance of a pre-release programme by offenders will also be a prerequisite before any release.

Sentenced offenders who may not have participated in other relevant programmes will be prioritised for such pre-release programmes before being considered for release.

The Risk and Relapse Probability Report is one of the key tools that is going to be utilised to assess and mitigate any risk associated with re-offending.

A JCPS Cluster Technical Task Team has been established to focus, amongst others, on looking at the list of offenders who are foreign nationals that are to be considered for remission.

“This Technical Task Team will manage the review of the citizenship status granted to foreign nationals, to be done by the Department of Home Affairs, as well as verification of fingerprints and DNA analysis (to be done by the SAPS),” Lamola stated.

The 2019 special remissions project is targeting approximately:

84.7% of probationers, already in communities and not in correctional facilities (11 556 out of the total probationers of 13 644);

48.98% of parolees, already in communities and not in correctional facilities (24 833 out of the total parolees of 50 700);

51.30% of the total community corrections population, already in communities and not in correctional facilities (36 389 out of the community corrections population of 70 930);

8.99% of South Africa’s total inmate population in correctional centres (14 647 out of the inmate population of 163 015); and

Less than one third (21.81 %) of South Africa’s total offender population (51 036 out of the offender population of 233 945).

The minister emphasised that government has taken a decision to exclude certain types of offences from the special remission process.

“As a responsive government, we have deliberately excluded these types of offences from the special remission process, because we understand the sensitivity they are carrying in our society,” he said.

This special remission of sentence will not be applicable to any sentenced offender, probationer, parolee or day parolee who is serving for:

Sexual offences

Murder and attempted murder

Armed robbery

Certified as mentally ill and is detained in accordance with the Mental Health, 2002 (Act 17 of 2002);

Sedition, high treason, sabotage and terrorism;

Offenders declared as dangerous by the court in terms of Section 286 A of the Criminal Procedure Act, 51 of 1977;

Sentenced to life imprisonment;

Any escaped/absconded offender who evaded the justice system after being released on bail pending appeal and was still at large on December 16, 2019.

Violations under the Domestic Violence Act, 1998 (Act No 116 of 1998); and

Child abuse.

The announcement by Ramaphosa has been slammed by Glynnis Breytenbach, the DA spokesperson for Justice and Correctional Services.

Breytenbach stated that the announcement that Ramaphosa intended issuing blanket pardons or “special remissions” to certain categories of criminal offenders gave “the lie to the lip service he and his party pays to due process, the rule of law and his superficial commitment to combating rampant crime in South Africa”.

“The under-resourced and severely constrained police force works tirelessly, often with little or no recognition, to investigate crime and prepare evidence for criminal trial. Prosecutors work equally tirelessly under severe constraints to prosecute those cases in an effort to make South Africa a safer place for all. The fruits of their hard labour are now to be rewarded by ‘special remissions’ for over 14 000 convicted criminals.”

Breytenbach added that the “slap in the face that this reckless, foolhardy approach represents to the literally thousands of South Africans who fall victim to crime on a daily basis, cannot be overstated”.

Breytenbach stated further that the Department of Correctional Services had been “under-resourced and stolen blind for decades under a succession of questionable appointments who enthusiastically enabled corruption and state capture, to the point that our prisons are now demonstrably incapable of rehabilitation in even the most basic form”.

Breytenbach stated that attempts by both to secure their release through legal proceedings had been exhausted and have resulted in failure.