Debate over expunging criminal records for violating Covid-19 restrictions
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Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has stopped short of disclosing that they will expunge the criminal records of thousands of people who were convicted and found guilty for flouting the Disaster Management Act after the outbreak of Covid-19.
Lamola, who was part of the Security Cluster Ministers in the National Council of Provinces, yesterday said that there was currently a cabinet process to deal with people who were convicted of violating the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
The police had said that from March last year until this year, more than 300 000 people had been found guilty of being in breach of lockdown restrictions.
Freedom Front Plus MP Fanie du Toit asked Lamola if government would expunge the criminal records of people who were found guilty of flouting the Covid-10 restrictions that were announced.
Lamola said when the lockdown started in March last year, the public was told of this. But government was now working on those criminal records, said Lamola, stopping short of saying whether they would be expunged.
“Indeed, the public was advised that if you are arrested for any violation of the Disaster Management Act you will have a criminal record.
’’There is a process a person with a criminal record may follow to expunge the criminal record. But there is a process which I may not disclose as there are sub-committees of Cabinet,” said Lamola.
He would not say whether this process was intended to expunge the thousands of criminal records of those who violated Covid-19 regulations during the lockdown.
Lamola also told the NCOP that out of the 14 000 prisoners who were given early parole during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to ease overcrowding in prisons, 126 have been arrested. This was after they were involved in other crimes.
He said there was a lot of work done to rehabilitate prisoners.
But when Covid-19 set in, they decided to release some of the low-category inmates, but out of 14 000 a total of 126 have gone back to jail.
In the same question-and-answer session, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula complained that budget cuts were affecting her department.
Over the last few years, the department of defence has been hit by budget cuts worth billions of rands.
She said the budget cuts would have an impact on the work done by the department.
The department of defence is one of several departments that faced cuts including the police, justice, basic education, health and higher education.
The National Treasury has over the last year been proposing a zero budgeting process where departments would have to justify for each expenditure item on the budget and not be based on the baseline from the previous financial year.