Cape Town - Correctional services will spend R10.1 million on video-conferencing facilities by November at each of its 53 parole boards to ensure victims of crime are consulted when an offender applies for parole.

At Wednesday’s budget vote briefing, it also emerged that only 1 125 victims had participated in parole hearings in the past year, or less than 5 percent of about 25 000 parole releases. In 2009, just 108 victims participated in the parole consultation process.

Earlier this month, convicted apartheid-era killer Eugene de Kock, dubbed Prime Evil, was denied parole when Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha decided the families of his victims must be consulted before a parole decision.

On Wednesday, Masutha reiterated he had met the affected families on July 4 to ask whether they had had the opportunity to participate in De Kock’s parole proceedings.

“Each one of them stood up and said they were never consulted,” Masutha said. A new parole application is pending within the next year.

“I have constraints in discussing the De Kock matter because the contents of the profile of an applicant for parole are not open for public scrutiny,” added the minister, who makes the final decision on parole recommendations.

De Kock was sentenced in 1996 to two life terms and 212 years for killings during the 1980s linked to the Vlakplaas death squad. He has maintained he acted on political orders from apartheid leaders, who escaped sanction.

Masutha said the idea of the video conferencing was intended to help reduce the barriers of participation in the parole hearings like physical distance and language differences.

Although compliance with parole conditions increased to 94 percent last year, up from 82 percent the year before that, Masutha said more would be done to build the credibility of the system in conjunction with other criminal justice system partners and communities.

But it was not a smooth ride on matters of parole, when IFP MP Albert Mncwango pointed to the “politically connected”, released on medical parole for being terminally ill.

“Not only is Schabir Shaik (former presidential financial adviser) still very much alive, he continues to revel in his freedom by playing golf. And Jackie Selebi (former national police commissioner) is no longer on his deathbed, but is now even found in movie theatres, while those who deserve parole languish in prison.”

Cape Argus