/ 15 November 2007

New presidential pardons to come?

A new process of presidential pardons for people who have committed alleged political offences appears in the offing, it emerged on Thursday.

President Thabo Mbeki has asked Parliament’s presiding officers to convene a joint sitting of the two Houses next Wednesday for him to make an announcement in this regard, his office said in a statement.

Mbeki will announce ”a process for consideration of presidential pardons for people who have committed alleged political offences”, it said.

The issue of presidential pardons has been a bone of contention in some quarters for some time.

In May this year, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) chief whip Koos van der Merwe said high court papers had been served on Mbeki and Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Brigitte Mabandla, calling on them to respond in the matter of considering applications for a presidential pardon for certain prisoners.

The matter was a long-standing one, as the 384 prisoners had applied for presidential pardons almost four years ago, he told MPs in the Assembly.

Van der Merwe said that in January this year, the IFP’s complaints about the matter were vindicated when the South African Human Rights Commission made a finding that the minister, by not processing the applications, was guilty of violating the prisoners’ human rights.

In another recent high-profile case, lawyers acting for Chris Hani’s killers said last month they would proceed with an application to the high court, asking it to compel Mbeki to make a decision on their application for a presidential pardon.

Janusz Walus and Clive Derby-Lewis unsuccessfully sought amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1999 for the 1993 assassination of the then head of the South African Communist Party, and applied for a presidential pardon in May 2002.

Earlier this year they asked Mbeki to make a decision on their application, failing which they would take the matter to the high court, a step they will now take.

”They insist that it’s grossly unreasonable that a decision has not yet been made in their applications for pardons,” a statement released by the two’s attorneys, De Klerk and Marais Inc, of Pretoria, said. — Sapa