Johannesburg - Political parties were divided on Friday over the release on medical parole of corruption-convicted former top cop Jackie Selebi.
ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga said not releasing terminally ill prisoners would be a serious violation of the Constitution.
“The Correctional Matters Amendment Act... ensures that the rights of offenders who are seriously and terminally ill are protected, and that they can request release on medical grounds,” Motshekga said in a statement.
“To not release terminally ill prisoners would not only be a serious violation of the Constitution, but a morally repugnant abuse of human rights.”
He said Selebi's release was in line with the new medical parole policy.
Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele announced in Pretoria on Friday that Selebi had been granted medical parole.
An 11-member medical parole advisory board met on June 20 and recommended the release of six offenders, including Selebi, who needed dialysis for kidney failure.
The Democratic Alliance said that given the public's cynicism around medical parole due to the Schabir Shaik “fiasco”, Ndebele had to give assurances that the correct procedure had been followed.
“Given the huge degree of public scepticism about medical parole, it is essential that the government comes entirely clean about Mr Selebi's medical condition and the procedure that was followed in determining that he is indeed terminally ill,” DA MP James Selfe said in a statement.
In 2005, the Durban High Court sentenced Shaik to 15 years imprisonment for fraud and corruption. His sentence in effect ends in 2021.
However, in March 2009, Shaik was released on parole, apparently with a terminal illness, which sparked controversy and accusations of special treatment because of his political connections.
The Inkatha Freedom Party said government kept shocking the nation with its double standards for corrupt ANC members.
“Investigators spent a lot of time and taxpayers' money to investigate and prosecute Selebi,” IFP MP Velaphi Ndlovu said in a statement.
“Now, after spending just six months behind bars, Selebi is free. They did it with Schabir Shaik. They have done it again with Jackie Selebi,” he said.
Ndlovu said the government was interfering with the rulings of courts.
“This makes a mockery of correctional services, the justice system and government, which claims to be fighting for justice in this country.”
The United Democratic Movement said it hoped that Selebi had “learnt his lesson”.
“We also hope that his incarceration sent a strong message that crime does not pay,” UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said in a statement.
The Congress of the People said it was worried Selebi's release was sending a message that not everyone was equal before the law.
“We believe his release will encourage people to do more crime and corruption without fear of being punished for their actions,” Cope MP Dennis Bloem said.
“We were informed by media reports about Mr Selebi's ill-health, but no one has medical records, or facts, on the state of his health.”
The Azanian People's Organisation said it was extremely disappointed by Selebi's release.
“This confirms our long-held argument that in this country it matters who you are, and who you know,” Azapo national spokesman Funani ka Ntontela said in a statement.
“If you are connected to the ruling party, some of the laws of the country may not apply to you.” - Sapa