Christoff Becker, above, and Frikkie du Preez had their parole revoked at the end of last month after a video emerged that showed the two having a party in jail. File picture: Phill Magakoe

Rehabilitation does work – certain personalities can be safely paroled and will not re-offend, says Sbu Ndebele.

Johannesburg - the parole of the Waterkloof Four has been the subject of much debate. In line with Section 73 of the Correctional Services Act (Act 111 of 1998), the independent Correctional Supervision and Parole Board approved their placement on parole after they served five and a half years of their 12-year sentence following 12 months’ special remission of sentence.

With regards to determinate sentences, the Correctional Services Act stipulates that any offender sentenced after October 1, 2004, must be considered for placement on parole after serving half their sentence.

Frikkie du Preez and Christoff Becker were re-arrested earlier this month and will remain in custody pending a review of their parole. The Department of Correctional Services is closing in on the officials involved.

Parole is used to place offenders under supervision within the community.

Recently, Tessa Beetge was released on parole from a Brazilian prison where she’d spent five and a half years of her 12-year sentence.

In the US, at the end of 2008, 5.1 million adults were under community supervision with 4 270 917 probationers and 828 169 parolees. In South Africa, in addition to the about 158 000 inmates, 63 240 offenders are under community supervision and live in their respective communities. Of the 63 240 offenders, 48 323 are on parole, 14 917 are probationers (convicted offenders not serving a prison sentence) and an additional 1 719 are awaiting-trial detainees.

Parole is not the end of a sentence, but an offender serves the remainder of his sentence under supervision within the community. Parole is not a right. It is subject to conditions. Offenders on parole are closely monitored, and those who are electronically monitored can be tracked, thereby promoting the safety of citizens.

The department won’t hesitate to act in cases of policy breaches and transgressions of the law. In the past financial year (2012/13), 251 department officials were dismissed. The Public Service Commission 2011/12 report rated the department the third best institution in dealing with fraud and corruption.

In 2011, the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board recommended the sentences of the other Waterkloof two, Gert van Schalkwyk and Reinach Tiedt, be converted after they had served three years of their 12-year sentence. On June 12 last year, however, a full bench of judges ruled against the conversion of sentence by the regional court and ordered Tiedt and Van Schalkwyk to return to prison. This led to the dismissal of a number of correctional services officials, including the chairman of the parole board and the chairman of the case management committee.

Tiedt obtained his degree at Unisa with distinction and is now a financial manager at an agricultural firm. Van Schalkwyk is captain of his rugby club, and has started various businesses including a restaurant and retail businesses.

There is no evidence to link Tiedt and Van Schalkwyk to the recent antics of Becker and Du Preez.

While rehabilitation seems to have had a positive impact on Tiedt and Van Schalkwyk, the alleged actions of Becker and Du Preez raise questions about their readiness to return to society as ideal citizens.

Countless offenders bear testimony of successful rehabilitation. For instance on January 10 last year, Riku Nortje, Correctional Services 2011 top university student, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1996, was released on parole after serving 16 years of his life sentence at the Leeuwkop Correctional Centre. Nortje started serving his sentence at the age of 21 and only had Grade 10. Upon his release, he had a Master’s degree in computer science from Unisa. He graduated with distinction.

An average of 3 827 parole applications are approved monthly. Recommendations for parole placement in respect of inmates sentenced to imprisonment for two years and less are, in terms of section 42(2)(e) of the Correctional Services Act, submitted by the Case Management Committee to the head of a correctional centre for a decision.

When an inmate is serving a jail sentence of more than two years, the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board, after having considered a profile report, is responsible for the approval of parole placement. The parole policy provides for credible members of communities to chair the country’s 52 independent boards.

In the case of life imprisonment, the Minister of Correctional Services takes the final decision to grant parole or not in line with Section 65 (5) and (6) of the Correctional Services Act (Act 8 of 1959). Parole applications for lifers are first considered by the committee, then the board.

The National Council on Correctional Services, chaired by Judge Siraj Desai and comprising other professionals including judges, magistrates, attorneys, clinical psychologists, social workers, medical doctors, professors and officials, then reviews these applications, including recommendations from the committee and board, for recommendation to the minister. The minister then exercises due consideration.

On November 26, 2012, the Pretoria High Court ordered Cornelius Johannes van Wyk be placed under day parole from January 1, last year.

Van Wyk murdered three people in 1991 in Makhado when he was 20 and belonged to the ultra-right-wing National Socialist Partisans. He and an accomplice, now dead, shot and slit the throats of domestic worker Makwarela Dobani, her husband Wilson and householder Maria Roux and stole their guns. On September 5, 1994, he was sentenced to three life terms on 11 charges including three counts of murder, two counts of unlawful possession of firearms, theft of a motor vehicle, attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances, and two counts of housebreaking with intent to steal and rob.

Paul van Vuuren, an inmate at Pretoria Central Correctional Centre who has spent the past 21 years in prison, has been fighting for the past six years for parole.

On November 13, 1992, he was convicted of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, theft and possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition and was sentenced to death.

On September 20, 2000, his death sentence was commuted to life in prison and antedated to November 13, 1992.

Van Vuuren took the Minister of Correctional Services to the Constitutional Court in 2010. The subsequent precedent-setting ruling brought about a change in the way in which inmates sentenced to life before October 1, 2004, must be considered for parole.

In line with the Van Wyk judgment, all offenders sentenced to life imprisonment before October 1, 2004, must be considered for parole after serving a minimum of 13 years and four months. Those sentenced to life incarceration after September 30, 2004, may not be placed on parole until they have served at least 25 years of the sentence, as per Section 73 (iv) of the Correctional Services Act (Act 111 of 1998).

Through the victim-offender dialogue process (a preparation leading to the possibility of a face-to-face meeting between a crime victim or survivor and the offender), the department aims to strengthen rehabilitation and re-integration programmes. The trilogy of victim, offender and community is paramount. Crime prevention is the answer to safe living environments. We need society to continue to partner with the department in rehabilitating offenders.

As we have done before, we’ll take decisive action against people who are reversing our gains in the fight against crime.

* Sbu Ndebele is the Minister of Correctional Services.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

The Star