Credibility Diminished, Says Desai Public Trust in Parole System Shaky after Shaik Case

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BYLINE: CARIEN DU PLESSIS Political Bureau

JUDGE Siraj Desai, chairman of a prisons advisory body, has conceded that public confidence in the parole system was dented by recent cases, including the release on medical parole of convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik.

Judge Desai, who heads the National Council for Correctional Services, told Parliament's portfolio committee on correctional services yesterday that Shaik's release in March was one of a series of incidents in the past few months which "diminished the credibility of the parole system".

"Steps should be taken to remedy the situation," Desai told the Cape Times.

"The legislation should also be amended to give the chairman of the council the right to review parole. Currently, only the minister (and correctional services commissioner) can order such a review. It would make oversight easier and increase transparency."

He said the council's review of medical parole provisions, which would be amended to include terminally ill prisoners and those who are seriously ill, would go some way towards remedying the situation. The bill would be ready for discussion before the end of December, he said.

Desai said he was not only referring to Shaik, who was given a 15-year sentence for fraud, but was released on medical parole after serving two years and four months of the sentence, mostly in hospital.

The former and current correctional services ministers, Ngconde Balfour and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, have refused to send the Shaik decision for review. …