Former Director-General in the South African Presidency, Reverend Frank Chikane, says Jacob Zuma should be granted a presidential pardon should he apply for it.
Around midnight Wednesday, Zuma handed himself over to the authorities to start a 15-month jail sentence at Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal for contempt of court related to an enquiry into “state capture” during his tenure as President between 2009 and 2018.
According to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, a presidential pardon is a complete forgiveness of the crime of which the party being pardoned was convicted.
“According to our Constitution, the decision to pardon or not can be taken only by the South African president. The pardon process is a long one and can take two years or longer to finalise due to the involvement of various role players. Both the processes of expungement and a presidential pardon are free of charge. The President of the Republic is empowered by Section 84 (2) (j) of the Constitution to pardon or reprieve offenders.”
The pardon process is not available to persons who maintain their innocence and is not an advanced form of appeal procedure. It is an alternative option for more serious crimes where direct imprisonment was received or a fine exceeding R20,000 (US$1,400) was paid.
In an interview with eNCA, Rev Chikane hailed Zuma for handing himself over to the authorities.
He added, “Pardons are the prerogative of the President, there are rules and you cannot just do it ordinarily. In my view, people who apply for pardons would be those who say I’ve made a mistake, I should not have done this or the other, I am asking for pardon. It can’t be that you are defying the courts and then ask for a pardon.”
Rev Chikane said a pardon was not a priority at the moment, and what was critical for Zuma to account to the nation first as he was expected to, and only then could a pardon be considered.
But Associate Professor in Public Law at the University of Cape Town, Cathleen Powell, believes it would be political suicide for President Ramaphosa to consider granting Zuma a pardon.
While President Ramaphosa has so far remained mum on Zuma’s legal woes, there have been suggestions from some quarters that the ANC might pressure him to grant clemency
“The requirements for a presidential pardon are very loose,” said Prof Powell. “They’re not restricted by anything in the constitution. The president simply has the power to grant one pardon. There is in practice a board that considers that application. But there is nothing in principle that is stopping the president from issuing a pardon.
“I’m not a political analyst but it would probably be political suicide for him to do so because we’re at the point where we have established that the rule of law has some hold in South Africa. And for the president to immediately pardon somebody for the contempt of court, then he is sending out a message that the courts don’t need to be respected.”
Among those calling for a pardon are the Al Jama-ah political party.
Party leader MP Mr Ganief Hendricks said the Al Jama-ah constituency in KwaZulu-Natal had submitted a petition for the party to help keep Zuma out of jail as they were concerned about the former president’s health.
He told CapeTalk that Al Jama-ah had made a written submission to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola requesting that President Ramaphosa grant Zuma an amnesty, but on the condition that the latter agrees to fully disclose his knowledge of “state capture” in South Africa.
“We respect the decision of the Constitutional Court, however as an MP I have a national parliamentary constituency office. We have a very strong constituency in KZN. We have five councillors there and a deputy mayor.
“Our office received a petition from our constituency to ask if we can consider some assistance because they felt that Zuma was poisoned, he’s still dealing with the effects of the poison, he’s got diabetes, he’s losing weight and is an elderly person,” Mr Hendricks said.
“The Minister of Justice will look at the merits (of the application) and send the request to the Presidency. The Presidency will obviously apply its mind and Al Jama-ah will accept its decision and that for us will be the end of the matter.” – The South African/Jacaranda FM/CapeTalk