ANC: Pardons are president's prerogative

The African National Congress (ANC) had not discussed presidential pardons with President Jacob Zuma, it said on Sunday.

“The ANC doesn’t inform the president’s decisions,” said ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu.

“Many issues are the president’s prerogatives. We try to separate these matters from any ANC discussions so that we don’t influence the president on any matter as the ANC,” he said.

The comment follows a Rapport newspaper report that new legal grounds were being considered for the release of Eugene de Kock and Schabir Shaik.

De Kock is serving a life sentence for apartheid era assassinations. Shaik was convicted of corruption, but released on medical parole last year. His release was widely-criticised as politically motivated, since President Zuma had been implicated in his case.

An anonymous ANC source told the newspaper that “selective prosecution” would be cited as grounds for pardon.

According to this principle, it is unfair that the individuals were convicted alone even though they acted with accomplices. They should therefore be released.

Difference of opinion
Rapport also reported that there is considerable division within the ANC over both De Kock’s and Shaik’s pardons. Yet Thembu denied that behind-the-scenes discussions were held.

“I wouldn’t say so,” he said.

“It would be inappropriate for any ANC leader or person to discuss the prerogative of the president.”

“Even on the issue of the IFP pardons. It was not discussed in any ANC discussion. It would not be correct for us to do so.”

But the “selective prosecutions” argument was weak, the paper quoted constitutional expert Professor Pierre de Vos as saying.

“It is completely true that there was selective prosecution, but that means the alleged accomplices also have to be prosecuted—not that everyone should be freed,” he said.

“In this case the answer ... is to prosecute Zuma [in Shaik’s case] and De Kock’s commanding officers,” he said.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said he was not aware that the issue had been discussed.

“I lost too much ... I saw too much blood”
ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in January publicly opposed De Kock’s release.

“It is a subject I cannot even consider,” she was quoted as saying.

“I lost too much ... I saw too much blood,” she said.

“He deserves to be where he is.”

Meanwhile, ANC parliamentary chief whip and law expert Dr Mathole Motshekga lambasted the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) proposal of a Bill to revise the presidential pardoning process.

The Bill seeks to regulate the process to create “an appropriate legislative check on the president’s power,” according to a draft Bill filed by DA MP James Selfe.

“The motivation behind the DA’s proposed bill is that the president cannot be trusted with exercising the authority bestowed upon him by the Constitution and the majority of the South African people in relation to granting pardons,” said Motshekga.

“It is ironic that a party, which during the elections campaign employed false and deceptive scare tactics that the ANC will change the Constitution, is today itself beginning to show signs that it wants to amend the Constitution so that the sitting president is rendered powerless,” he said.

The Constitutional Court is due to give judgement within the next two months on whether victim’s families should be consulted in cases where pardons applicants claim political motives for their crimes.—Sapa

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