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Babalo Ndenze Political Bureau
THE ALLEGED rapist of a 94-year-old KwaZulu-Natal woman, who was released under President Jacob Zuma’s special remission of sentences earlier this year, was a serial petty criminal serving a six-month sentence for theft before his latest crime.
This has lead MPs to suggest that the prison system turns petty offenders into violent criminals instead of rehabilitating them. Parliament’s Correctional Services oversight committee was also informed yesterday of 20 reoffenders who are unaccounted for and roaming the streets despite stringent conditions attached to their early release. MPs were being briefed by officials from the Correctional Services Department about the remission programme when the case of the 30-year-old man, who allegedly raped a 94-year-old woman soon after leaving prison was discussed. He is one of 3 150 inmates released in KwaZulu-Natal. James Smalberger, the department’s chief deputy commissioner responsible for incarceration and corrections, told the committee that 25 338 probationers and parolees had been released. He said of this number, 144 had re-offended and been re-arrested, and 27 of them already sentenced. “We regard one re-offence as one too many. They were given a second chance and some are using the opportunities,” said Smalberger. He said of the 27 re-offenders who had been sentenced, eight had been for “aggressive” and “narcotic” crimes. “On the recent case in KwaZulu-Natal, the impression created was that we released a habitual criminal who raped a 94-year-old. “I’d like to inform the committee that the person served a six-month sentence for theft. He was sentenced on February 7 and released on May 21 after he got a three-months and five-days remission. “He was not on parole, his sentence expired,” said Smalberger. However, during bail hearings in the New Hanover Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, the court heard that the accused, Ntuthuko Ndlela, had four previous convictions, for housebreaking with intent to steal and malicious damage to property in 2006, theft and contempt of court. His contempt of court conviction came after he was released on bail and failed to attend court for his trial on the housebreaking charge. Vincent Smith, chairman of the portfolio committee, said MPs needed to understand whether the process had been “well thought” through. “Was the pronouncement and implementation done to the satisfaction of all South Africans? Have we learnt lessons on how we do this thing better next time,” Smith asked. The re-arrest of the alleged rapist meant some inmates “go in as petty criminals and come out hardened criminals committing the most horrendous crimes you can think of”. “It talks to lack of rehabilitation,” said Smith. Meriam(cor) Phaliso agreed with Smith, saying much of the information presented “raised our eyebrows”. Correctional Services officials gave the assurance at the time that inmates to be released had been prepared for life outside. “The people we are releasing have gone through preparation programmes and we are confident that they will conduct themselves in an exemplary manner,” Zac Modise, deputy director-general for corrections, told Parliament in May. DA spokesman on correctional services James Selfe said yesterday the high number of reoffenders showed the pre-release programme had once again failed. “The DA said from the start that the department had not learnt from the mistakes of the previous round of special remissions in 2005. After the Special Remissions of 2005, a total of 157 offenders were re-admitted to correctional centres as awaiting-trial detainees within less than two months of their release,” said Selfe. He said the programme needed to be more “holistic, with a greater focus on rehabilitation and reintegration”.