Minister taken to task over presidential pardons

A Pretoria High Court judge ruled on Monday that Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Brigitte Mabandla had failed to exercise her constitutional duties diligently over the applications of 384 prisoners for presidential pardons.

Judge Willie Seriti gave the minister three months to deal with the applications.

The prisoners, who are assisted by the Inkatha Freedom Party, have waited four-and-a-half since handing in their applications—without a word from the minister on when their applications would be dealt with.

The issue was raised in Parliament several times and raised with the Human Rights Commission—all to no avail.

Judge Seriti said it was clear that the processing of the applications had taken an unduly long time and that the minister had failed to perform her functions as required by the Constitution.

Mabandla insisted she needed at least six months to put a draft framework into operation about how to deal with these types of applications, which had “a huge political content”.

She said the 384 were part of more than 1 000 pending applications.

The department had in the past processed and sent recommendations to the president about pardon applications by 33 African National Congress and Pan-African Congress members, who were granted pardons in 2002.

The judge rejected the argument that the minister had no legal duty to become involved in the process of their pardon applications and that the decision rested with President Thabo Mbeki alone.

He said President Mbeki’s request to the minister to process the applications for pardon was in accordance with the law and had legal consequences.

“Section 237 of the Constitution provides that all constitutional obligations must be performed diligently and without delay. When processing the applications under consideration, the minister is exercising a public function and she is bound to perform the said function diligently and without delay,” he said.—Sapa

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