Presidential pardons to prisoners slap in the face for victims - DA
Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to grant more than 14,000 prisoners pardons or remissions of sentence to mark Reconciliation Day rang like a slap in the face of crime victims, Democratic Alliance justice spokeswoman Glynnis Breytenbach said on Tuesday.
Breytenbach said the decision was reckless and South Africans had a right to be "outraged".
"The announcement by President Ramaphosa that he intends issuing blanket pardons or 'special remissions' to certain categories of criminal offenders gives the lie to the lip service he and his party pays to due process, the rule of law and his superficial commitment to combating rampant crime in South Africa," she said in a statement.
Breytenbach said the country's under-resourced police force and its prosecutors worked tirelessly under severe constraints to secure convictions and the remissions flew in the face these efforts.
"The slap in the face that this reckless, foolhardy approach represents to the literally thousands of South Africans who fall victim to crime on a daily basis, cannot be overstated," she said.
"To suggest, as the ANC does, that South African prisons 'shall only (be) for serious crimes against the people, and shall aim at re-education, not vengeance' is to understate the nature of the problem to the point of the bizarre'."
Breytenbach said corruption had undermined the department of correctional services to the point where prisons could not serve as places of rehabilitation. This raised the spectre of many of the 14 647 inmates who will be released in coming months without normal parole conditions, re-offending, she warned.
Those likely to receive pardons include Kanya Cekeshe, a leader of the #FeesMustFall student protest movement, who set alight a police van and AbaThembu king Dalindyebo, who is serving a 12-year sentence for crimes including arson, culpable homicide, assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm and kidnapping.
Breytenbach pointed out that both had tried and failed to secure their release through regular legal proceedings. She said the decision to release them smacked of political expediency and the release of other offenders looked like a cover for taking them out of jail.
"In both cases, the politically motivated decision to secure their release at all costs has been frustrated by due process, since simply put, neither meet the legal criteria for release," she said.
"This amounts to circumventing the rule of law and is both transparent and deeply concerning. None of the prescribed conditions for parole will be complied with in this mass release, and when, inevitably, a large number of those released in this reckless frolic return to crime and its consequences, our president will no doubt again be 'shocked'."
According to the justice ministry, the process of releasing those on Ramaphosa's list will begin immediately and could take up to nine months.
African News Agency (ANA)