Mbeki declines to explain Boesak pardon

By Time of article published Jan 18, 2005

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By Angela Quintal

More than 800 presidential pardons were granted by President Thabo Mbeki since 2002, presidential spokesperson Bheki Khumalo said on Monday.

The presidency had not given individual reasons for the pardons in the past and was not about to do so now that former anti-apartheid activist Dr Allan Boesak had received one, he said.

Khumalo said 428 people were pardoned in 2002, 256 in 2003 and about 100 in 2004. He declined to make public the names of those whose criminal records had been expunged by the president. The decision to pardon individuals was a presidential prerogative, Khumalo said.

Commenting on the row over the awarding of Boesak's pardon, Khumalo said many of the 800 pardoned since 2002 were not ANC members. "But no one complained when non-ANC members were released."

The Democratic Alliance (DA), Pan-African Congress (PAC) and Freedom Front (FF) Plus are among political parties who believe Boesak received preferential treatment because of his links to the African National Congress (ANC).

The PAC has questioned why Boesak was given a pardon ahead of Apla cadres who are serving jail terms for what the party argues are politically motivated crimes.

The PAC has held meetings with justice ministry officials in a bid to speed up the process, although its case was marred by the controversy surrounding former Apla cadre Dumisani Ncamazana who two weeks after his release on a presidential pardon in 2002 along with 32 other mostly ANC and PAC members, allegedly killed delicatessen owner Martin Whittaker in East London. He was convicted of murder and his case is on appeal.

The FF is also on record calling for rightwing prisoners convicted of politically motivated crimes to also be pardoned. If someone like Boesak could be pardoned, then former NNP cabinet minister Abe Williams should also be pardoned, FF justice spokesperson Dr Frik van Heerden said.

Meanwhile, ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama said there was nothing wrong with the ANC giving Boesak a second chance.

He did not rule out that the ANC might consider giving Boesak a job.

Boesak had been earmarked as South Africa's envoy to the United Nations in Geneva which was scuppered by his arrest on charges of corruption and fraud, for which he was later convicted and served two years behind bars.

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