The Presidency has confirmed receiving an application for a presidential pardon from fraud convict Schabir Shaik, the SABC reported on Wednesday.
The application is one of more than 300 currently before President Jacob Zuma, according to a report on the broadcaster’s website.
Zuma’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, said the president did not mean to mislead the public during a television interview on e.tv on Sunday when he said Shaik had not applied. Zuma had meant to say he could not comment as he has not yet seen the application.
While it did not normally discuss individual cases because of confidentiality, the Presidency would confirm that Shaik applied because of the public interest in the matter.
Zuma had not yet had the opportunity to look at any of the 300 applications.
The SABC said Zuma was not bound by any deadlines and would consider the applications when he chose to.
The announcement comes after much speculation on the mixed messages emanating from the presidency on the issue of pardons.
On Wednesday the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) put forward a private member’s Bill on presidential pardons in order to avoid accusations of bad faith being made against the president when he exercises his constitutional right of granting pardons to convicted criminals, and to clear up the opaque jurisprudence on the reviewability of such decisions.
James Selfe, the DA’s spokesperson on correctional services and the party’s federal chairperson, submitted their legislative proposal to the office of the Speaker.
“Because it is such an important power,” Selfe said, “it must be used in a responsible, rational and reviewable way.”
On Tuesday, the DA insisted on an answer from the Presidency on whether Schabir Shaik and Eugene de Kock are being considered for presidential pardons, complaining about conflicting statements on the matter.
“The [DA] notes with astonishment that presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya has reportedly claimed President Jacob Zuma never denied that Schabir Shaik had applied for a presidential pardon,” Selfe said in a statement.
Earlier, Magwenya told the South African Press Association (Sapa) 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 DA 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.
Commentators believe Zuma may pardon De Kock in exchange for pardoning his friend Shaik.
De Kock and Zuma met last April, but the content of the discussion was not revealed. — I-Net Bridge, Sapa