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Interdict stops president from pardoning over 100 prisoners

The high court in Pretoria yesterday granted an interim interdict preventing President Kgalema Motlanthe from granting pardons to more than 100 prisoners convicted of politically motivated apartheid crimes.? Judge Willie Seriti ruled in favour of a coalition of civil society groups who had brought the urgent application.


The applicants had argued the granting of pardons should be set aside until the right of the victims to be heard had been fully explored.


"My view is that the president should allow the victims and, or their families and interested parties to be heard prior to releasing any prisoner on parole," said Seriti.

The State declined to comment as it needed to study Seriti's judgment.

In March, the State argued that Motlanthe's comments that victims' rights should be explored was not contractually binding and therefore not enforceable.

Speaking after judgment was handed down, Melissa Moore from the Freedom of Expression Institute - one of the applicants in the case - said it was a "massive victory".

"It's a huge win for access to information. It's a big first step forward."

Tshepo Madlingozi from the Khulumani Support Group said the State had in the past been "hostile" to the rights of victims and the ruling vindicated the right of victims to be heard.

"We hope this is a turning point in how the government relates to victims. Over the past few years, the government has been hostile to the pleas and rights of victims.

"Our hope is that the new incoming administration will be less hostile," he said.

The Khulumani Support Group - also an applicant in the matter - was formed to support victims and families of the 1995 Kuruman violence in which black municipal workers were assaulted.

Seven members of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, who were involved in the violence, had joined the State in resisting the coalition's court bid.

The seven men formed part of about 120 prisoners who were recommended by a multi-party task team, referred to as the Reference Group, for pardons in 2008. - Sapa


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