Saying that thousands of South Africans really had high hopes in the presidential address won’t be far from the truth. Everyone really wanted to have a fair share of likely “goodies” from President Zuma. I bet you, perhaps you didn’t know that inmates also wished to walk on South African streets as free men too. [all, in the spirit of SONA].
Inmates at the Boksburg Correctional Services have pleaded with President Jacob Zuma to grant amnesty to numerous prisoners who have spent lengthy years behind bars. The prisoners who were privileged to watch the State of the Nation Address, implored the president to once again spill the milk of his kindness on them.
Prison officials and other stakeholders filed out to view the proceedings and to also have a first-hand information from the president. It is believed that the idea of having inmates watch the SONA is aimed at inspiring them to crave and take part in building the nation.
Last year, president Jacob Zuma received 2109 applications from criminals appealing for amnesty. 432 of the applications came from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) members. Reports said a committee which makes recommendations on pardons to Zuma said that 149 of the applicants should be set free.
However, responding to written questions in Parliament, President Zuma said:
“The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development [now Department of Justice and Correctional Services] and the Presidency are in the process of finalizing the relevant documents for my final decision.”
“I have therefore not yet granted pardon to any applicants who applied in terms of the Special Dispensation Process, including Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) members. All applicants will be informed as soon as I have taken a decision on this matter,” the president maintained.
Speaking about the presidential amnesty after 2016 SONA, one of the inmates, Tsepho Siakamela, thanked South African government for investing a lot on him since he was thrown behind bars. However, he feels that having been in prison for over 16 years, he needs to give back to the society all that he acquired as a prisoner.
“The amnesties do not serve the purpose for me because the two amnesties that have been given is only six months and you find that it does not help me much. As an inmate who is serving a life sentence, I was supposed to be considered after 13 years and 4 months but that process is slow because now I’m serving 16 years already. And I feel that the country has already invested a great deal on me and I also would like to go out and give back to the community by participating in the economy,” said Siakamela.
In South Africa, before amnesty is granted, the Special Dispensation Process usually receives recommendations from a “reference group” made up of members of political parties in Parliament and passes these recommendations on to the president for consideration [though this is one of the processes that must take place].