The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has said the fact that convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius is eligible for parole does not mean he should automatically be released.
The DCS was responding to reports that the Constitutional Court confirmed that Pistorius was eligible for parole review in March.
Pistorius was denied parole back in April this year on the basis that it was too early.
Pistorius is serving a 13-year-and-five-months prison sentence for the 2013 murder of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot through the bathroom door of his Pretoria East home on Valentine’s Day that year.
DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said it has received an order from the Constitutional Court on the proper interpretation of the Supreme Court of Appeal’s Judgement delivered on November 24, 2017.
Briefly, the matter relates to the sentence given to inmate Pistorius, its effective date and the impact on the calculation of the minimum detention period.
“DCS is studying the order and shall in due course pronounce itself on the way forward. This shall ensure that the order of court is correctly executed,” said Nxumalo.
He said the judgement was very clear in terms of years that Pistorius needed to serve.
“But the confusion came in when it referred to when must we start counting his sentences, meaning the effective sentence stage. You will recall that Pistorius came into our facilities for the first time to serve a sentence of culpable homicide.
“He was then placed out under correctional supervision, and then there were appeals, and when he was given 13 years and five months, he was brought back to then start again to serve that sentence. Pistorius then took us to court, saying that the Supreme Court ought to have included the time that he had served previously, and the court agreed with him.
“But then there was another order which came in a day before March 21, 2023, where the parole board was busy considering his parole placement, which was then saying something different. Hence on that particular day the parole board said the order that we are having now is saying that he has not served that minimum detention period, because by law an inmate has to serve that minimum sentence before he is eligible to be considered for placement,” Nxumalo said.
He added that as the department, these were orders they could not ignore, hence they went to the Constitutional Court, not opposing the application by Pistorius, but requesting the court to say “please attend to this matter” and clarify for them, so that no one was found to be on the wrong side of the law.
“As the department, we are obligated to implement court orders, we cannot dispute or act otherwise. If perhaps there is confusion, we are then expected to go to that particular court and seek clarification,” Nxumalo said.
The Star has seen a document signed by Concourt registrar Sibusiso Mapossa, featuring a stamp dated “2023-10-09”.
“The Constitutional Court has considered this application for direct access,” said the document. “The sixth and seventh respondents have not opposed the application. The first to fifth respondents (state respondents) have withdrawn their opposition and filed an explanatory affidavit. The court is satisfied that direct access, which the state respondents do not resist, should be granted.
“The applicant and the state respondents agree that, on a proper interpretation of the Supreme Court of Appeal’s (SCA) judgment delivered on 24 November 2017 (main judgment), the substituted sentence of 13 years and five months imposed by the SCA is to be calculated from 6 July 2016, the date on which the High Court imposed the sentence against which the National Director of Public Prosecutions appealed.
“This court is satisfied, moreover, that the SCA was entitled to issue the further order dated 21 January 2021 which made this interpretation of its main judgment explicit.”
The document further stated that the applicant and the state respondents agreed that the SCA’s later order dated August 19, 2021 should not have been issued.
“For these reasons, the court will grant the relief set out in the order below. In view of the state respondents’ withdrawal of their opposition, the court has decided not to award costs,” it said.
The court ordered that direct access was granted. It was further declared that by not later than March 21, 2023 the applicant had served half of his sentence as contemplated in section 73k6) of the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998.