Johannesburg - Corruption-convicted top cop Jackie Selebi is “very ill” and should have been granted medical parole much sooner, his lawyer said on Friday.
“We are all very grateful and happy (about his parole),” his lawyer Wynanda Coetzee said.
“He should have been allowed to go home a while ago already. His situation is very serious and he is very ill,” she said.
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.
Selebi's wife is a qualified nurse, but it was not clear if she would look after him, or if the family would hire professional help.
“There are a lot of financial implications and considerations to take (into account) before they can decide,” said Coetzee.
Selebi was president of Interpol at the time of the investigation into claims that he received money from convicted drug trafficker and police informer Glenn Agliotti.
He was convicted of corruption on July 2, 2010 and handed a 15-year jail sentence.
Selebi appealed in the Supreme Court of Appeal against the corruption conviction. In December 2011 he collapsed at home in Waterkloof, Pretoria, while watching the appeal judgment on television. His appeal was denied.
This meant he had to begin his 15-year jail sentence for corruption. It was decided he would stay in Pretoria Central Prison's medical wing indefinitely.
At the time, he had not instructed his medical team to apply for medical parole. Selebi had also been trained to administer his own treatment.
He suffers from diabetes and kidney disease.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it could not comment on Selebi's release.
“Prosecutors can't comment on (the) release of prisoners on parole; our job is to prosecute them and (we) are (finished) with the matter as soon as they start serving their sentences,” NPA spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said.
The Democratic Alliance said 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.
In 2005, the Durban High Court sentenced Shaik to 15 years imprisonment for fraud and corruption. His sentence effectively ends in 2021.
But 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. He then applied for a presidential pardon.
According to section 79 of the Correctional Services Act provision is made for an offender's possible placement on medical parole. A medical practitioner had to identify prisoners who might qualify. A family member or the offender could also apply for medical parole, but this must be recommended by the medical practitioner.
In March this year, medical parole was expanded to include cases where an offender was suffering from a terminal disease or condition, or if the person was rendered physically incapacitated as a result of injury, disease, or illness, limiting their daily activity or self-care.
When medical parole had been approved the person would be monitored by the department and subject to a specific set of conditions.
Medical parole could be revoked if the person did not comply with the placement conditions. Improved medical health would not be grounds to cancel medical parole.
The correctional services department had been accused of having double standards when granting parole.
Clive Derby-Lewis, who was convicted of the 1993 murder of SA Communist Party leader Chris Hani, is suffering from prostrate cancer and has twice been denied ordinary parole.
Last year, his lawyer Marius Coertze said he had been trying to get Derby-Lewis freed on parole for over three years.
Derby-Lewis, 75, had served 18 of his 25 year-sentence.
Former correctional services minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula cited Derby-Lewis' lack of full disclosure and a lack of remorse for the crime as among the reasons he was being refused parole.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had been asked to look into the matter. - Sapa