14 June 2012

South Africa: President Zuma Shows No Empathy for Victims of Remissions Re-Offenders

press release

President Zuma is showing no empathy for the victims of crime committed by offenders released through the Special Remissions of Sentences he announced earlier this year.

Reports this morning indicate that within a month of their early release, 47 offenders are already back behind bars for murder, rape, attempted murder, robbery, assault, kidnapping, theft, stock theft, possession of drugs, possession of stolen goods and housebreaking. When asked why they committed the crimes so soon after their release, they blamed boredom, homelessness, hunger, poverty, drug addiction and unemployment as the reason they re-offended.

The President's response, through his spokesperson Mac Maharaj, was simply that he "had noted what had happened".

It is increasingly clear that the remissions and release process is severely flawed because insufficient care is taken to mitigate the risk of re-offending and to assist in the reintegration of offenders into society.

The pre-release programme is inadequate. The programme needs to be far more holistic, with a greater focus on rehabilitation and reintegration.

The new Minister of Correctional Services Sibusiso Ndebele needs to take charge of this process and effectively address the concerns and shortcomings highlighted by the Democratic Alliance (DA). He must also instruct the Department of Correctional Services to stop releasing any further offenders until it is satisfied that people are ready to be reintegrated into society and won't reoffend.

When President Zuma announced the remissions, the DA pointed out that the Department had not learnt from the mistakes of the previous round of special remissions in 2005. On that occasion, 157 offenders were re-admitted to correctional centres as awaiting-trial detainees within less than two months of their release.

The President's own lack of empathy and detachment from this process testifies to his disregard for the safety and security of South Africans. It is clear that he did not think this process through before it was announced in April.

The DA maintains that the safety of South Africans should be the overriding concern in this process. The continued lack of a clear policy framework and the absence of concrete mechanisms to address reoffending show that at no point has this been a priority for government.

James Selfe, Shadow Minister of Correctional Services

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