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Johannesburg - The number of medical parolees has more than tripled this year from last year, with 39 prisoners with organ failure and infectious diseases like extreme drug-resistant tuberculosis being released.
But the South African Prisoners’ Organisation for Human Rights (Sapohr) believes the process is flawed, despite the increase in the number of medical parolees.
In his reply to a parliamentary question from Cope National Council of Provinces member Kennett Sinclair, Correctional Services Minister S’bu Ndebele said that 8 891 offenders were pending placement or release in the next 12 months.
“A total 20 739 offenders were authorised for parole in the past 12 months, and 11 073 cases were approved for further profiling during the past 12 months,” said Ndebele.
Sinclair had asked whether Ndebele’s department had a list of inmates whose applications were before the parole board. He had also wanted to know whether any inmates had been granted parole on medical grounds, and what the major illnesses were in each case.
Ndebele said 39 offenders had been released on medical grounds since last year.
Earlier this year, the Correctional Services Department said only 12 inmates had been released on medical parole during the first six months of last year.
Ndebele said the prisoners released had a number of medical conditions.
* Chronic obstructive airway disease, grade III to IV dyspnoea (breathing difficulty).
* Cardiac disease with multiple organ failure.
* Diabetes mellitus with end organ failure.
* End-stage renal failure.
* Multisystem organ failure.
* Malignant cancer (stage four) with metastasis being inoperable or with radiotherapy and chemotherapy failure.
Golden Miles Bhudu, the president of Sapohr, has cast doubt on Ndebele’s figures.
He said more terminally ill prisoners were languishing in prisons.
“There’s no third party to verify those figures. You must also move away from the phenomenon that whatever stats are given (they) are okay, it’s correct.”
Sick prisoners “are not even spoken about, they are nothing”, Bhudu said.
“They are just figures, numbers. They die there and nobody talks about them.
“When we as an organisation want to get access to this information, they give us all sorts of excuses.”
Medical parole became a contentious issue following the release of disgraced former national police chief Jackie Selebi and that of President Jacob Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik.
Selebi was released on parole on medical grounds in 2012 after serving just two years of his 15-year jail term.
In March 2009, Shaik was released on medical grounds.
A few years later, however, Shaik was captured on camera by journalists, apparently in good health.
Last month, he told The Mercury that hypertension medication kept him alive.