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Johannesburg - The number of medical parolees more than tripled this year compared to last year, with 39 prisoners suffering from infectious diseases such as extreme drug resistant tuberculosis and multiple organ failure among those released.
But despite this increase, the SA Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (Sapohr) still believes the process is flawed despite the increased 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 a total of 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 parole applications were currently 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.
On medical parole, Ndebele said 39 offenders had been released on medical grounds since last year.
Earlier this year, the Correctional Services Department said only 12 inmates were released on medical parole during the first six months of last year.
Ndebele said the prisoners released were suffering from a number of medical conditions.
However, Sapohr president Golden Miles Bhudu has cast doubt on Ndebele’s figures.
He said many terminally-ill prisoners were still languishing and dying in prisons.
“There’s no third party to verify those figures. You must also move away from the phenomenon that whatever the stats they’ve given are okay, it’s correct.
“They (sick prisoners) are not even spoken about, they are nothing.
“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,” Bhudu said.
Medical parole became a contentious issue after the release of disgraced former national police chief, Jackie Selebi, and President Jacob Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik.
Selebi was released on parole on medical grounds last year after serving just two years of his 15-year jail term.
In March 2009, Shaik was released on medical grounds.
The Durban businessman arrived home in an ambulance and was wheeled into his room on a stretcher after being diagnosed with uncontrolled hypertension, a condition he later described as a silent killer.
A few years later, however, Shaik was captured on camera by journalists appearing to be healthy.
Last month, he told the Daily News’s sister newspaper, The Mercury, that hypertension medication kept him alive.
“I am still on six hypertension drugs.
“I take six pills in the morning and six in the evening. These are all prescription medicines. I will be on drugs for as long as I am alive.
“I also go for a medical check-up every month,” Shaik said.
Asked if he was terminally ill, he said that he suffered from “severe uncontrollable hypertension”, a genetic affliction of the vascular system, from which his parents suffered.