Desai admits Shaik parole damaged credibility of system

Correctional Supervision and Parole Review Board chairperson Judge Siraj Desai on Wednesday renewed his call for a review of the medical parole system.

Desai conceded in a National Assembly’s correctional services committee meeting on Wednesday that Schabir Shaik’s controversial release on medical parole had damaged the credibility of the parole system.

Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson James Selfe welcomed Desai’s call to amend laws governing medical parole.

“The decision to grant Schabir Shaik medical parole has become an extremely controversial matter as it is believed that Mr Shaik did not qualify for release in terms of the provisions of the Act,” Selfe said.

This scepticism undermined the credibility of the parole system as a whole, something Desai had conceded.

As the law now stood, only the correctional services minister or the commissioner could refer a parole decision for review.

The DA had requested both the former and current ministers to refer Shaik’s parole decision for review, but these requests were refused.

Selfe said Desai had now suggested the law be amended to allow the national council for corrections to be given the power to review parole decisions if the appropriate representations were made.

“These suggested changes go a long way toward making the parole process more transparent and credible.

“The DA welcomes these suggestions and will endorse any such changes.

“South Africa currently has two parole systems; one for the rich and politically connected and another for those that do not have connections and are often ignored.

“These amendments are necessary if any further political influences in the parole system are to be avoided,” Selfe said.

In March this year—when Shaik was released on medical parole, apparently being in the final stages of a terminal illness—Desai said medical parole was meant only for people who were terminally ill, not those suffering from lesser conditions.

In an interview on radio station Cape Talk at the time he said: “There is no elasticity in the Act in so far as it concerns medical illnesses generally.”

He said then that the Correctional Services Act as it stood was not ideal.

“There is absolutely no reason to detain somebody who is not a danger to society, but very ill and keep them in custody.

“I personally am of the view that the Act should be amended to broaden the scope on which we can release medically unfit persons from prison.”—Sapa


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