Quote of the week

Universal adult suffrage on a common voters roll is one of the foundational values of our entire constitutional order. The achievement of the franchise has historically been important both for the acquisition of the rights of full and effective citizenship by all South Africans regardless of race, and for the accomplishment of an all-embracing nationhood. The universality of the franchise is important not only for nationhood and democracy. The vote of each and every citizen is a badge of dignity and of personhood. Quite literally, it says that everybody counts. In a country of great disparities of wealth and power it declares that whoever we are, whether rich or poor, exalted or disgraced, we all belong to the same democratic South African nation; that our destinies are intertwined in a single interactive polity.

Justice Albie Sachs
August and Another v Electoral Commission and Others (CCT8/99) [1999] ZACC 3
3 March 2009

Shaik release subverts the Rule of Law

The release of Schabir Shaik on medical parole is an outrage. Either that or I feel very sorry for him and his family because he is about to die a ¨consolatory and dignified death¨.

It might well be true that Shaik is ill and that he is not faking his illness (but who knows, during his trial he turned out to be a liar and a fraud, so I will not be surprised if he makes a Lazarus-like recovery in the weeks the come – bring on the cigars!), but the law is clear: unless a prisoner is terminally ill, he is not entitled to be released on medical parole.

Section 79 of the Correctional Services Act of 1998 states that “any person serving any sentence in a prison and who, based on the written evidence of the medical practitioner treating that person, is diagnosed as being in the final phase of any terminal disease or condition” may be put on parole so that they may “die a consolatory and dignified death”.

So, either Shaik is going to die any day, or the Parole Board broke the law in releasing him and are no better than those correctional services officers taking a bribe to facilitate the escape of prisoners. No, the Board is worse, because it did its work in the open – in a brazen fashion – as if the law does not apply to it and the powerful prisoner it has decided to free on no legal basis whatsoever.

Why would the Parole Board break the law and act illegally? Well, Shaik is a friend of the next President of South Africa; he is the man who gave that President millions of Rand and then got that man to do some serious favours for him to advance his business career. And if one has such important friends, why should the law stand in the way of a release? After all, what the President wants the President gets, no?

It seems the ANC cronies on the Parole Board is tough on crime if those who commit the crime are not ANC members or friends of the President of the ANC. Otherwise, they get a free ride. Join the ANC if you are a criminal and you will hardly have to wrorry about the consequences – even a 15 year sentence becomes a two year stay in a luxury hospital.

This kind of behaviour is utterly outrageous. It shows a contempt for the law that is so breathtaking and disgusting that words fail me. (Either that or the members of the Parole Board cannot read and write.)

Why would the Parole Board illegally release Shaik? Well, because they know they will get away with it and they know that powerful people in the ANC want it to happen. One law for them, and no law for ¨us¨. This kind of attitude is highly dangerous for any society and for any democracy. It undermines respect for the law and creates a cowboy society in which who you know and how much you earn decide your fate.

And when the rules are not followed by the powerful, why will the powerless follow the rules? This leads to a complete breakdown  of rules and respect for rules and a kind of crony society in which respect for rules only gets you into trouble.

In the long run such a society will make many people very unhappy because only a select few can know the right people, only a select few can get the contracts and can know the President of the ANC and can get the rules broken for them. People of principle, poor people, people who have no contacts will be forgotten in such a society and they WILL suffer.

This is why corruption and a lack of respect for the law really matters to ALL South Africans – not only to us in the chattering classes. Corruption potentially eats away at our humanity and corrupts our souls while it also destroys the efficiency of the state – a state on which poor people rely to make their lives better.

For the sake of all South Africans, rich and poor and black and white, I can only hope – maybe even pray – that Shaik is about to die a ¨consolatory and dignified death¨. Otherwise we are in for some rough times with the crooks in charge.

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