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Opposition slams release of Schabir Shaik

Opposition parties on Tuesday slammed the release of convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik on medical parole.

Shaik, the former financial adviser of African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma, was released on medical parole on Monday, the Department of Correctional Services confirmed on Tuesday morning.

”The purpose of medical parole is to release terminally ill offenders so that they can die a ‘dignified and consolatory’ death in the presence of their family and friends,” said Democratic Alliance (DA) correctional services spokesperson James Selfe in a statement.

Selfe and Independent Democrats (ID) leader Patricia de Lille said many prisoners were suffering from terminal illnesses and were not given medical parole.

”What about the thousands of other prisoners that were never fairly assessed by the parole boards, even though some of them were in the final stages of terminal illness? Shaik has been given preferential treatment throughout his sentence and his early release is the final proof of that,” said De Lille in a statement.

”It is completely disgusting that there is such scant regard for procedures and the law in our country when a criminal has connections to high-profile politicians,” she added.

Selfe also called for the Department of Correctional Services to disclose the grounds on which Shaik qualified for medical parole.

”While his medical condition is confidential, it would be appropriate for the department of correctional services to disclose the grounds on which Shaik qualified for medical parole.

”This will do much to dispel the notion that double standards are being applied,” said Selfe.

Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) Eastern Cape spokesperson Funani ka Ntontela said: ”Many prisoners who suffer from Aids are still to be incarcerated until their last gasps of air, while Schabir Shaik can be released early to recuperate at home.

”This suggests that there are policies that are applied to ordinary citizens in the country and policies for the individuals connected to the ruling party in one way or the other.”

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa said the ANC was using medical parole as part of a ”continuous campaign” to undermine the judiciary.

Inkatha Freedom Party correctional services spokesperson Sybil Seaton said in a statement: ”It is a joke.”

”Shaik’s stint in prison was nothing more than a farce and a waste of taxpayers’ money. It is really a sad day for our fight against crime and corruption when a convicted fraudster is able to manipulate the system in such a way that he is released from prison having served only two years and four months of his 15-year term, most of that time in hospital.”

The only positive response came from the South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights. Its president Golden Miles Bhudu hoped Shaik’s release would encourage correctional services to provide medical parole to other prisoners.

”There are about 2 500 inmates who have died last year because either prison officials were negligent or did not make recommendations. We hope they will also consider the other [sick] inmates.”

In June 2005 Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in jail on two counts of corruption and one of fraud, which, among other things, related to an alleged bribe he negotiated between Zuma and a French arms company.

Family asks for ”space”
Shaik arrived at his Durban home just before 8am on Tuesday shortly after being released from Durban’s Chief Albert Luthuli Hospital, the family said, appealing to the public for ”space”.

”Our brother is ill and the family requests that we be allowed the space to take care of him,” said Shaik’s brothers, Moe and Yunis, in a statement.

The Shaik brothers added that they ” wish to acknowledge the support of comrades and friends during the long journey of Schabir’s trial and imprisonment. Our greatest need now is for peace”.

By 9.30am, an array of media had converged on the Shaik family home on Innes road, Morningside. — Sapa

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