Justice Minister Michael Masutha has played down claims that AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo’s pardon application was a ploy by the ANC to win votes ahead of the May 8 elections, but today the ministry confirmed that he had finalised and submitted the application to the presidency.
Dalindyebo is currently serving a 12-year sentence in prison for arson, assault, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice.
Masutha told City Press that there were only two grounds on which President Cyril Ramaphosa could set Dalindyebo free earlier than expected: sympathy that the sentence is harsh or public interest.
Read: Ramaphosa feels the heat over Dalindyebo’s early release
Dalindyebo’s application for a presidential pardon follows a series of attempts to plead his case, including lodging an appeal against his 12-year jail sentence, which began in 2015 with the Constitutional Court, which proved unsuccessful.
Former president Jacob Zuma was seen to be hostile to the king, raising expectations that Ramaphosa would be sympathetic, and more so given the pressure the incumbent is under to revive the ANC’s electoral fortunes.
“It has been an ongoing process that dates to the beginning of 2016. Now we are at the beginning of 2019, which is, in effect, more than three years that this process has been under way. At the time [the application was first lodged], elections were not even on the radar screen,” Masutha told City Press.
“From where I am sitting,” he added, “issues of elections and all of that do not bear any relevance. What is relevant is that we have received the application and it has to be considered as we do in other instances where applications are lodged.”
In South Africa, the power of the president to pardon or reprieve offenders and remit any fines, penalties or forfeitures flows directly from section 84(2) j) of the Constitution and it is therefore regarded as a presidential prerogative.
Read: Editorial: Dalindyebo should not be given special treatment
According to the justice ministry, the initial application for a pardon of Dalindyebo was made by the Congress of Traditional Leaders in January 2016 and Dalindyebo also made an application for a pardon.
“The minister sought the advice of external legal counsel on the application, including facilitation of interaction with the victims who expressed their views on the pardon. One of the considerations in a pardon application is the views of the victims of the crime.
“For that reason, counsel also engaged with the King in respect of facilitating victim-offender engagement in line with our restorative justice approach,” said the ministry.
The justice department highlighted that there are no specific timelines prescribed in law for when the president may make his decision on whether to grant the pardon to the King or not. The prerogative rests with the president. – Additional reporting by SAnews.gov.za