Durban - Ninety inmates from New Prison, in Pietermaritzburg, have taken their fight for freedom to the Durban High Court.
Nkosinathi Ntenza and 89 other “lifers” have approached the court, seeking an order compelling the Minister of Correctional Services to process their overdue applications for early release.
In an affidavit deposed to by Ntenza, he said many of their applications should have been attended to two years ago but that the prison authorities were delaying proceedings.
The inmates want to apply for parole in terms of the Correctional Services Act, which provides that lifers sentenced before October 1, 2004, are entitled to be considered for parole upon completing 20 years - less any “earned credits” - of their sentences.
“All of us have been sentenced prior to October 1, 2004, and therefore qualify for timely consideration for possible placement on parole,” Ntenza said in his affidavit.
But, he went on, the authorities were holding up the process by saying sentence remarks, victim-offender mediations and prison board reports were “missing or lacking”.
“(But) these reasons are not cases of absolute impossibility,” Ntenza said. “They are not enough to exclude the minister from obeying the law. The minister can successfully consider a lifer for parole even if these are missing.”
When the matter came before Judge Graham Lopes on Wednesday, the issue of jurisdiction - and whether it should be heard in Durban or Pietermaritzburg - came up.
The judge ultimately agreed to keep the case in Durban and adjourned it to next month.