As many as 149 dangerous criminals, responsible for political violence that left hundreds dead, may be freed if relatives of victims fail to come forward to oppose their parole. In November, the Department of Justice published names of prisoners who were being considered for presidential parole. Families of the victims were urged to come forward if they wished to be part of the process. They had a month to respond.
Spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the department had received 151 responses and has 30 days to respond to victims. “Thereafter the victims have 30 days to submit their representations.
Acknowledgement of receipt of all responses has been sent to those who indicated that they wanted to make representations, and victims have been requested to make their representations.”
The 149 prisoners committed 338 murders, 200 attempted murders and scores of other offences, including arson, kidnapping and offences under laws that have long been discontinued, such as the Immorality Act.
There were fears that the poor response by victims and their families to the offer to have their say would result in these dangerous individuals – some of them serving life sentences – being released.
“No decision on the release of any of the applicants has yet been taken, as the process of obtaining victims’ representations has not been completed,” Tlali said.
People in Richmond, KZN, where 20 of the prisoners on the list killed more than 70 people during the 1999 political violence, were sceptical of participating in the process.
Among those asking to be pardoned are Blessing and Bongani Nkabinde, who killed 30 people, Mbongeni Mjwara and Smanga Dlamini, who killed 21 people each, Sipho Mntungwa, who killed 11 and Sipho Mtolo, who killed eight people, during the political violence in the area.
They were affiliated to the late United Democratic Movement leader Sifiso Nkabinde, who led the clash between the party and the ANC in the area.
Marjorie Jobson, of Khulumani Support Group, the organisation that has been responsible for finding victims, said the Richmond community had its own demands.
“We had a group meeting with the victims and community members and they said that before they make any submissions on the issue, they needed a guarantee from the police and government that the weapons used during the violence have been found and confiscated,” said Jobson. “They also asked that these killers come back and speak to the community,” she said.
Jobson said that more affected people still wanted to be part of the process although the deadline had already passed.
“The department is going to have to accept these late submissions or else we will fight it out with them,” said Jobson.
The prisoners include Nicolaas Barnard, Abraham Myburgh and Johannes van der Westhuizen, members of an Afrikaner organisation, who planted a bomb in Worcester in December 1996.
They killed five people and injured three.
Two strange cases are that of Heinz Jasson, who has been in jail since 1968 for transgressing the Immorality Act, a law that forbade sex between different race groups, and no longer exists.
The second is Maureen Stephens, who is still serving time for “entering a black area” in Springs in 1969.
The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation spokesperson Hugo van der Merwe said the organisation had asked to participate in the process but had yet to receive a response from the department.