NGOs worry that Zuma may embark on hasty consultation with victims Political prisoners and victims of political violence are becoming impatient with the government's slow pace in finalising special pardons, with an MP threatening to take legal action against President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court.
The Constitutional Court ruled six months ago that special political pardons can be granted only once victims or their families had been consulted properly.
Koos van der Merwe, an IFP MP and a member of the special multiparty pardons reference group, which approved the release of 150 political prisoners, is considering legal action against Zuma and the Justice Department on behalf of some of the pardon applicants for not implementing the court ruling.
Also running out of patience is a network of victim support NGOs, which fears that lack of time would compromise a proper victims' consultation process to ensure that they can exercise their right to demand more
information about the incidents.
While word is out that some of the prisoners have been told that their pardons may be finalised by October, the network, consisting of eight prominent NGOs, has not heard from the government.
The NGOs include the Khulumani Support Group and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR).
Among the 150 names they have been furnished with by the president's lawyers include prisoners found guilty on 345 counts of murder, with one person responsible for 21 killings. Although their names have not been
released, they are understood to include 46 ANC members and 21 from the IFP, 31 PAC, eight Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, three Freedom Front Plus|members and one from the Azanian People's Organisation.
Also among them are apparently four members of Israel Vision, a radical sect with the violent objective of eliminating all black people.
The multiparty reference group was appointed in 2008 to consider political pardons that fell out of the loop of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's amnesty process.
Khulumani director Marjorie Jobson said concern was mounting that Zuma may embark on a hasty consultation process with victims.
"Although remorse was not built into the criteria for pardons, our sense is that survivors need the power to demand information to get the truth about the incidents and some form of accountability should have been a
consideration," said Jobson.
CSVR programme manager Hugo van der Merwe said the court ruling was vague about the process the president should follow in consulting survivors.
"We have urged the president to make an attempt to identify victims to inform them of the process, but we are concerned that there has been no such reassurance and we are now worried that he will press ahead with a
superficial consultation instead of a comprehensive process," he said.
In a second judgment in April, the Constitutional Court slammed the Presidency for dragging its feet for seven years in considering the presidential pardon for 384 imprisoned IFP members.
Zuma has indicated that 230 of these have been rejected, but the names of those who stood to gain regular presidential pardons have not been released.
The Presidency referred questions about the process to the Justice Department, whose spokesman, Tlali Tlali, rejected suggestions that an October pardons deadline was looming and confirmed that proposals for a
victim consultation process was being considered.
"The matter is under consideration and will require some degree of consultation among the parties involved to map out a clear way forward," he said. "At the end, we need to have a comprehensive plan – one which in
practical terms must do justice to what we seek to achieve. A great deal of spadework has been done already."
By Christelle Terreblanche
In Sunday Independant.