South African opposition warns against presidential mass pardon of prisoners

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South Africa’s opposition warned on Tuesday that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s pardoning of over 14,000 prisoners was “a slap in the face to victims of crime” and would cause serious consequences.

The announcement that Ramaphosa would grant 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 Democratic Alliance (DA) said.

On Monday the president granted a special remission of sentence to 14,647 offenders to mark Reconciliation Day which falls on December 16. The mass pardon covers specific categories of sentenced offenders, probationers and parolees.

This announcement sparked strong repercussions, and even outrage among many South Africans.

“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,” said Glynnis Breytenbach, DA Shadow Minister of Justice and Correctional Services.

The mass pardon would severely dampen efforts by law enforcement agencies to make South Africa a safer place for all, Breytenbach said.

“South Africans have the right to be and should be, outraged,” said Breytenbach.

According to Breytenbach, the mass pardon was “politically motivated.”

The release of more than 14,000 criminals was intended to provide “cover” for politically expedient “pardons,” Breytenbach alledged.

He was referring to student activist Kanya Cekeshe, who was imprisoned for setting fire to a police vehicle during student protests in 2016, and Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, King of the AbaThembu tribal, who is serving a 12-year sentence for serious offence including arson, culpable homicide, assault and kidnapping.

The two men are among those to be pardoned.

Despite support from certain political parties, attempts by both men to secure their release through legal proceedings have been exhausted and have resulted in failure since neither meet the legal criteria for release.

The release of the two men under the cover of a mass pardon amounts to circumventing the rule of law and is deeply concerning, Breytenbach said.

He warned that serious consquences could be expected when a large number of those released return to crime.

If so, the president will be unable to prevaricate and will have to shoulder the blame, said Breytenbach. Enditem

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