Siyavuya Mzantsi and Zelda Venter
OSCAR Pistorius’s legal team is expected to fight tooth and nail to have him released from jail tomorrow. His lawyer, Brian Webber, could not be reached by late yesterday to confirm whether they would launch an urgent application at the high court in Pretoria to secure his release, but legal experts say there is no doubt this would end in a legal fight.
When phoned by Independent Media, Webber said he could not speak as the legal team was in a meeting.
Pistorius’s hopes of leaving his dingy prison cell for his uncle’s Waterkloof mansion have meanwhile been dashed on the eve of his release.
Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha decided that he will remain in the Kgosi Mampuru II Prison in Pretoria for now. He referred the decision to release him to the Correctional Supervision and Parole Review Board (CSPB) for review. This means that the decision to place him on correctional supervision is suspended until the CSPB has decided on the matter.
Pistorius was sentenced to a five-year jail term in terms of section 276(1)(i) of the Criminal Procedure Act after being found guilty of culpable homicide for shooting and killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013. This meant he had to serve at least a sixth of his sentence before being released on correctional supervision.
“It may well be that the board might have misdirected itself when interpreting that provision, which they were to consider before the prescribed minimum period,” Masutha said yesterday.
The minister’s decision to look into Pistorius’s release was prompted by a petition he received from lobby group the Progressive Women’s Movement of SA (PWMSA). It opposed Pistorius’s release during Women’s Month. He rejected the PWMSA’s motivation as the basis on which the matter could be reviewed because it could only consider such matters on the basis of the law.
PWMSA’s main reason was that it would be insensitive to release him given the nature of the offence and the victim involved during Women’s Month. “An NGO representing women’s rights approached my office,” Masutha said.
He had a responsibility to consider any representation on any matter.
“I came to the conclusion that indeed there may be challenges associated with the decision of the parole board,” Masutha said. “When the board considered his application for parole, he had not yet completed a sixth (of his sentence).
“It’s only being completed, arguably, today and therefore it would have not been possible to consider him in terms of the act as it currently provides.”
Masutha said he decided in terms of another provision of the act which empowers him to refer decisions of the board for review with the National Council for Correctional Services (NCCS), which acted as a review parole board when it considers such reviews.
“The effect is that the decision of the parole board is automatically suspended until such time as the NCCS has taken a decision.
“The effect is that he continues to serve the sentence inside a correctional facility until such time as the question of the regularity or correctness of his placement on parole is confirmed or otherwise rejected.”
According to a senior advocate this could take months, as the board only convenes a few times a year.
The advocate, who cannot be named for ethical reasons, said the court, following an urgent application, could order Pistorius’s release pending the outcome of the review. If the minister succeeded, it would mean that Pistorius would have to go back to prison.