Minister: Shaik's parole not unique

Schabir Shaik’s controversial medical parole is not a unique phenomenon, Justice Minister Enver Surty said on Thursday.

“It is not an unprecedented event,” Surty told the media at a justice, crime prevention and security cluster briefing in Pretoria.

Surty said in 2007 and 2008, 70 prisoners had been granted medical parole.

“Thirty-six percent of those who were released have passed on.”

There had also been a decrease in the number of medical paroles granted since 2004.

“It’s not acceptable but certainly a 42% decline,” he said.

Surty said he believed the public had the right to know what the specific grounds for medical parole were, but this right needed to be balanced with an individual’s right to privacy.

While not speaking on behalf of the Correctional Services Minister, Surty said he was certain that Ngconde Balfour was satisfied that Shaik’s parole had been in compliance with the law.

He reminded reporters that Balfour has already said that he will not interfere with the release of Shaik unless someone can come up with proof of wrongdoing.

Balfour was not at the briefing, as he had other engagements.

Shaik, the former financial adviser to African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma, was released on medical parole this week after serving 28 months of a 15-year jail term for fraud and corruption.

This was after a trio of doctors submitted evidence to the parole board concerning his deteriorating health.

“The three medical practitioners’ collective submission shows a unanimous conclusion that Mr Shaik is in ‘the final phase of his terminal condition’,” Balfour said on Tuesday.

“One even went as far as saying that his condition has reached an irreversible condition,” said Balfour.

Trust to help terminally ill prisoners
Meanwhile on Thursday, the Justice for Prisoners and Detainees Trust said all prisoners in the final stages of terminal illness should request parole.

The trust’s president, Derrick Mdluli, said the organisation would help those prisoners in their release bids.

“We will then try to get funds to help those prisoners.”

Mdluli said it was not fair to other inmates—many of whom were worse off than Shaik—to be behind bars.

Shaik’s brother, Yunis, had described his brother’s condition as “gravely ill”.

Mdluli said that with Shaik’s release, he expected that no terminally ill prisoner would die behind bars but instead be released on medical parole.

“It will not be justice if one terminally ill man is taken out and not the rest.”

He said the trust would focus its attention on those diagnosed with HIV/Aids.

Shaik spent most of his prison time in hospital, reportedly under treatment for high blood pressure, depression and chest pains.—Sapa, I-Net Bridge

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