Former Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok, together with several right wing criminals, who committed violent racist attacks in post-apartheid South Africa, have been recommended for presidential pardon.
A list of some 121 names of prisoners and convicted persons recommended for presidential pardon was compiled by the Pardons Reference Group, through a special pardons process, and handed over to President Motlanthe in March of this year.
Ryan Albutt, who has been recommended for pardon and who was one of the interveners in the pardons case, this week applied directly to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal an interim interdict preventing the President from granting pardon to political prisoners. It was only in an annexure to his papers that an incomplete list of the 121 prisoners who have been recommended for presidential pardon was discovered.
It appears that this list was circulated by the "authorities" to the pardon applicants in the prisons while the victims were denied access to any information about the list. This despite that Judge Sereti in his judgement on the pardons case ordered the State to provide the coalition with the list.
Although the names of pardon applicants have now become public, the details of the offences for which pardons are sought, are still being kept from the public and the families of those killed and injured.
Albutt is a member of the infamous AWB and was convicted and sentenced for participating in an attack through Kuruman in 1995, which left one dead and nearly 200 injured. The Supreme Court ruled that the attack was "unashamedly racist". Also convicted for the Kuruman attack and recommended for pardon by the Reference Group are Alexander George Whitehead, Arend Christian de Waal and Hans Jacob Wessels.
Other names on the list include those who were responsible for setting off a bomb in Worcester on Christmas Eve of 1996 which left five people dead and 67 severely injured. This attack was also overtly racist in its choice of target. The perpetrators of this attack have claimed membership of the AWB, while the coalition has affidavits that testify to the fact that these perpetrators were never members of the AWB, but of the extremist sect, Israel Vision, of which Barend Strydom (the 'Wit Wolf' who murdered 8 innocent civilians in the streets of Pretoria and was consequently sentenced to death) remains a well-known member. Israel Vision is listed amongst global terrorist organisations.
It appears that the Reference Group, at best, was not sufficiently rigorous in determining whether applicants committed perjury in their applications, making the entire process highly suspect and entirely unsatisfactory.
The coalition is of the view that violence perpetrated against others who belong to another ethnic group should, in the new constitutional order, not be considered as a political objective worthy of special and lenient treatment. Affording special and lenient treatment for racial violence would be to reject the very basis and foundation upon which our new society is built.
The names on the list highlight the pressing need for the participation of victims and the wider public in the process of recommending individuals for political pardons. The serious offences committed by the former Minister, Commissioner of Police and AWB criminals implicate not just the interests of the victims in those cases, but the interests of South Africans generally.
The Special Dispensation on Presidential Pardons was established by President Mbeki to deal with the "unfinished business of the TRC". Its aim was to permit those who did not apply to the TRC for amnesty an opportunity to apply for a political pardon. The cut off date was extended to include crimes committed up until 16 June 1999.
In order to deal with the applications for pardon Mbeki created a Pardons Reference Group, comprising only of political party representatives and chaired by former National Party cabinet minister Tertius Delport. The Reference Group's mandate was to make recommendations to the President in regard to which convicted offenders should be pardoned. The Reference Group considered only the written submission of the applicant, the court record related to the crime that was perpetrated and a report of the applicant's behaviour while in jail. The applicants did not appear before the Reference Group and were not cross-questioned. Their victims played no role in the decision-making process, unlike the situation when a prisoner comes before the parole board.
The special pardons process was challenged in the Pretoria High Court by a coalition of civil society organisations including Khulumani, a victim membership organisation on the grounds that it unlawfully excluded the participation of victims and other interested members of the public; and that it violated the rights of survivors to dignity, equal treatment, freedom of expression and other fundamental rights protected by the Constitution. The coalition is of the view that the process essentially amounts to a pseudo-amnesty process, without any of the safeguards provided by the TRC process, such as transparency, full disclosure and victim participation..
Last month, Judge Sereti granted an interim interdict preventing the President from granting pardons in terms of the special dispensation for political pardons. Judge Sereti also issued an order that the President provide a list of individuals who were recommended for pardon to the coalition. The President has not done so and has instead sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
On behalf of:
• Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR): Hugo van der Merwe, - 082 570 0744
• International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ): Comfort Ero - 082 927 8203
• Khulumani Support Group: Marje Jobson - 082 268 0223; Tshepo Madlingozi 082 496 9914
• Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR): Fanie du Toit - 083 266 1766
• Human Rights Media Centre (HRMC): Shirley Gunn - 082 450 9276
• Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI): Melissa Moore - 082 924 8268
• South African History Archives (SAHA): Fritz Schoon - 074 306 7327
• Legal Resources Centre (Cape Town): Lwazi Kubukeli - 084 742 4932