Kanya Cekeshe, the only #FeesMustFall activist behind bars, for his role in the 2016 student protests, is now eligible for an early parole after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a Reconciliation Day special remission of sentences for certain categories of offenders.
In detailing who would be eligible for a remission of sentence, Justice Minsiter Ronald Lamola was clear that certain categories would not be considered — including those convicted of sexual offences, domestic violence and child abuse.
However, he said that Cekeshe — who was to become eligible for parole in February in any event – was from Monday immediately eligible. Cekeshe has been in Leeuwkop prison since December 2017, after he was sentenced to five years behind bars for public violence and malicious damage to property. He pleaded guilty to setting a police vehicle alight during a #FeesMustFall protest in 2016.
Cekeshe is one of about 9% of prison inmates who fall under the special dispensation, which reduces the sentences of certain categories of offenders by 12 months. The vast majority of those who will benefit are already out on probation or parole, said Justice Minister Ronald Lamola at a press briefing on Monday.
Lamola said there was still an “operational process” that had to be followed, as “each offender will be dealt with on his own merits and demerits”.
With the number of people eligible, the whole remissions process, a “tedious” one, could take three months, or even more. Women, children and youth were expected to be prioritised.
Also immediately eligible was King of AbaThembu, Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, who in 2009 was sentenced to an effective 15 years for culpable homicide, assault and arson by the high court. His culpable homicide conviction from the high court was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal and his sentence was reduced to an effective 12 years.
Dalindyebo was already eligible to be considered for parole in October, said Lamola. Like with Cekeshe, there was an operational process that had to be followed about when and how he would be released.
Lamola said that there had been remissions of sentences under former presidents Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.
“In the previous remissions, in 2005 and 2012, less than one percent of the remitted individuals had reoffended.”
A “Risk and Relapse Probability report” was a key tool that would be used to assess and mitigate any risk associated with reoffending, the minister said.