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.
The under-resourced and severely constrained police force works tirelessly, often with little or no recognition to investigate crime and prepare evidence for criminal trial. Prosecutors work equally tirelessly under severe constraints to prosecute those cases in an effort to make South Africa a safer place for all. The fruits of their hard labour are now to be rewarded by “special remissions” for over 14 000 convicted criminals.
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. 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.
The Department of Correctional Services has been under-resourced and stolen blind for decades under a succession of questionable appointments who enthusiastically enabled corruption and State Capture, to the point that our prisons are now demonstrably incapable of rehabilitation in even the most basic form. The unacceptable state of financial management has deteriorated markedly under Arthur Fraser, who successfully destroyed the capabilities of the SSA, and instead of attending to these serious issues the President and his Minister take the route of politically convenient mass pardons.
The result of this indefensible action by the President, ably supported by his Minister, is the release of, inter alia, Kanya Cekeshe, the #FeesMustFall activist, who set fire to a Police vehicle during protest action, thereby destroying already scarce police resources, and the AbaThembu King, Dalindyebo, who is serving a 12-year sentence for serious offence including arson, culpable homicide, assault GBH and kidnapping.
Attempts by both to secure their release through legal proceedings have been exhausted and have resulted in failure. This announcement by the President will result in an excess of 14 000 criminals being released in order to provide “cover” for the release of these two and other politically expedient “pardons”. 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.
This amounts to circumventing the rule of law and is both transparent and deeply concerning. South Africans have the right to be and should be, outraged. 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”. But this time he will be unable to prevaricate and will have to shoulder the blame.