The Democratic Alliance (DA) has insisted on an answer from the Presidency on whether Schabir Shaik and Eugene de Kock are being considered for presidential pardons, complaining on Tuesday about conflicting statements on the matter.
“The [DA] notes with astonishment that presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya has reportedly claimed President Zuma never denied that Schabir Shaik had applied for a presidential pardon,” the party’s James Selfe said in a statement.
Earlier, Magwenya told the South African Press Association that Zuma did not deny that Shaik applied for a pardon while being interviewed on e.tv. Magwenya said Zuma did not have the details of the more than 300 pardon applications waiting for his consideration.
According to Selfe, however: “Yet the president has been recorded on national television stating of Shaik’s pardon application: ‘Why should I pardon him when he has not applied?’.”
The party said a statement issued last October by the Presidency “spelt out in black and white” that Shaik had applied for a pardon.
“Twice in two days we have seen irreconcilable statements from the Presidency — first from the president himself, and now from his spokesperson.
“And all of this serves to illustrate just how desperate the president is to avoid answering the straightforward question: Is he considering pardoning Schabir Shaik and Eugene de Kock? … What we need is a proper answer to a very simple question.”
Shaik was convicted of corruption in a trial that dealt partially with whether he facilitated a bribe for Zuma from a French arms company. De Kock was jailed for apartheid-era murders. Shaik is out on medical parole and De Kock remains in prison.
De Kock and Zuma met last April, but the content of the discussion was not revealed.
“People should stop stressing themselves about a matter that is clearly the president’s prerogative as empowered by the Constitution,” said Magwenya.
He said the debate around pardons did not serve any particular purpose, adding that the Constitution empowers only Zuma to grant or refuse a pardon. “The president is not obligated by any timelines or by any process. He will apply his mind over the applications at a time of his choosing and he will make his decision based on the facts and the information.
“No one can dictate to him how and when to go about exercising his constitutional prerogative.
“The whole assertion that the president was lying is completely untrue.”
Rapport and City Press newspapers reported on Sunday that former Vlakplaas commander De Kock might be granted a pardon in exchange for information about apartheid-era crimes. He is serving two life sentences and 212 years’ imprisonment in Pretoria’s C-Max prison for apartheid atrocities.
He has been in prison for 13 years.
The newspapers reported that De Kock’s release might divert attention from a possible pardon of Shaik and might be construed as a gesture of reconciliation toward Afrikaners. — Sapa