JOHANNESBURG – President Cyril Ramaphosa has approved the release of 14,647 offenders on pardons and remissions to mark Reconciliation Day.
On Monday, Ramaphosa granted a special remission of sentence to specific categories of sentenced offenders, probationers and parolees.
“Remissions of sentences are always carefully considered, taking into account the interests of the public and the administration of justice. We recognise that incarceration has followed a judicial process and that sentences have been duly imposed after conviction,” the president said.
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said the process would start immediately and may take up to nine months.
The pardons will not include offenders sentenced for sexual offences, murder and attempted murder, armed robbery, mentally-ill sedition, high treason, sabotage and terrorism.
As of November 2019, there were 163,015 offenders across the country’s 243 correctional centres for both sentenced and remand detainees. The department said there was a total of 70,930 parolees and probationers under the system of community corrections – these are offenders who are no longer in correctional facilities but are already in communities. Therefore, the total offender population is 233, 945.
The department said that more than two-thirds (71,3%) of beneficiaries to be considered for the 2019 presidential review of sentence expiry dates are already in communities as parolees and probationers, and not in correctional facilities.
“In terms of inmates within correctional centres, less than 10% (8.99%) of the total inmate population of 163,015 will be considered. Of those to be considered in correctional facilities, the greater part of the eligible 14 647 inmates is closer to their parole consideration dates,” the department said in a statement.
Those who are granted parole will be released into the system of community corrections as parolees and will be closely monitored by Correctional Services officials until their sentence expiry dates.
There have been previous remissions of this nature granted to coincide with important national days.
These include former president Nelson Mandela’s inauguration on 10 May 1994, the first anniversary of freedom on 27 April 1995, Madiba’s 80th birthday on 18 July 1998, the first year of former president Mbeki’s second term of office on 30 May 2005 and in celebration of 18 years of freedom on 27 April 2012.
The president can grant a pardon on various grounds to inmates inside and outside South Africa’s centres.
The decision taken by the president is in line with established international practice and informed by powers given to him by section 84 (2)(j) of the Constitution, which provides that: “The president is responsible for pardoning or reprieving offenders and remitting any fines, penalties or forfeitures.”