ANC government blamed for reckless release of unrehabilitated prisoners

South African prisoners. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency(ANA)

South African prisoners. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency(ANA)

Published Apr 15, 2024


THE ANC government will do whatever it takes to protect their own, even to the detriment and safety of the rest of the South African population.

The sentiment was expressed by the DA’s spokesperson for Correctional Services, Janho Engelbrecht, as he voiced concern at the growing number of prisoners released under President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Special Remission Programme (SRP) re-offending.

In August last year, Ramaphosa announced the remission of non-violent offenders in order to reduce the overcrowding of prisons, which were reportedly standing at an occupancy of 143%.

At the time, the government detailed how there were as many as 212 286 inmates, including 9 351 foreign nationals, managed by the Department of Correctional Services across the country’s 243 correctional centres and 218 community centres.

Engelbrecht said through the programme, a total of 16 074 prisoners were released, however, he added that the SRP was in actual fact a political favour to free former president Jacob Zuma, who was consequently released a mere hours after being readmitted after a failed medical parole decision.

According to the DA, the political decision to release Zuma was a decision the ANC government was likely to regret as it had resulted in terrible consequences for people in this country.

By January, a mere two months after their release, as many as 97 offenders had re-offended, with that figure increasing to 433 at the end of February.

“Not only have we seen re-offences, but it is an indictment on the ANC government that they have allowed violent and un-rehabilitated criminals to be released onto the streets.

“What is shocking is that those incarcerated for rape, attempted rape, and sexual assault were mistakenly released as per the minister’s own admission. What is more worrying is that it is not clear if these offenders have been readmitted back to prison or whether they continue to walk our streets, plaguing our communities,” said Engelbrecht.

He detailed how the offenders’ crimes varied from robbery to kidnapping, rape and sexual offences, assault with Intent to do grievous bodily harm, theft, immigration offences, housebreaking, culpable homicide, arson and domestic violence.

He added that the ANC had also “gladly released” as many as 15 people convicted of corruption.

“No information has been forthcoming from the minister on how these criminals could have been released by accident in the first place, but it shows once again that the ANC will do whatever it takes to protect their own. Hundreds of criminals now roam the streets, recommitting their heinous crimes all because of a political favour to Zuma.

“The DA calls on President Ramaphosa to publicly apologise, not only to the nation but to every victim of these crimes, for releasing sexual offenders into the public, but also to indicate whether these criminals are back behind bars or not.”

Questions were sent to the Department of Justice and Correctional services, they had not responded by publication time.

During his campaign trail in on Saturday, Ramaphosa had shown no regrets in granting Zuma a remission sentence, saying the remission was a generalised one and not aimed at the former president.

“The remission was generalised remission, it was not specific to him. When I took the decision, it was not specifically aimed at the former president Jacob Zuma, it was a broad decision that affected many other people that needed a remission and it has been done so that we can reduce the numbers of people in our prisons. I don't regret that decision,” he said. | Additional reporting by Kamogelo Moichela

The Star