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By unknown | Aug 29, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

The Department of Correctional Services' response to a call by parliamentarians that the recent release on parole of Hoedspruit farmer Mark Scott-Crossley should be investigated leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

The Department of Correctional Services' response to a call by parliamentarians that the recent release on parole of Hoedspruit farmer Mark Scott-Crossley should be investigated leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

On Wednesday, several parliamentarians - including ANC MP and chairman of the portfolio committee on correctional services Dennis Bloem - called for an inquiry into Scott-Crossley's early release. This was after Bloem revealed that Scott-Crossley had jumped the parole queue, which led to his release last week.

Bloem said there were 117 prisoners who should have been considered for parole before Scott-Crossley.

Making the call for an investigation into Scott-Crossley, Sakkie Jenner of the Independent Democrats said: "We in the Independent Democrats are concerned about hearing that this man, who was a perpetrator of the worst kind of racist violence, has been released from prison so soon. South Africans have been treated to a further shock that he could have jumped the queue for parole.

"If this is the case, it sends out the wrong message to perpetrators of violence and racism in our society."

On Monday, Fetsang Matlala, a relative of Nelson Chisale, the man who Scott-Crossley fed to the lions, had this to say: "Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour says he is only implementing normal parole conditions. This is not understandable.

"It is rare and cruel that someone could perform so brutal an act as throwing a man to lions and then be given parole - while other people sit in jail longer for committing petty crimes."

Matlala went on to say that parole was for people who were not a danger to society, who had behaved well in prison.

While in prison Scott-Crossley was found guilty of assaulting a fellow prisoner. He was fined R4000 or alternatively two years' imprisonment. He paid the fine.

On Wednesday, Correctional Services spokesman Bheki Manzini denied that Scott-Crossley had jumped the queue.

Indicating that there would not be any investigation into the farmer's release, Manzini said: "The only reason he (Scott-Crossley) could find himself back in prison was if he violated his parole conditions, like any other offender."

Manzini went on to say that the Department of Correctional Services was not obliged to contact Chisale's family when Scott-Crossley applied for parole.

The department last year introduced a procedure "aimed at facili- tating and promoting" the participation of victims' family members in the parole hearing process.

The procedure allows the victim's relatives to either sit in at the application hearings or make a written presentation to the parole board.

What Manzini fails to understand is the essence of this procedure. It is definitely not aimed at allowing some self-important bureaucrat to throw the book at families like the Chisales.

The department has introduced the procedure and must therefore make sure the victims do benefit from it.

Manzini's utterances do nothing to deal with the plight of the Chisales, who have lost their loved one in a senseless and vicious attack, the perpetrator of which has been freed under questionable circumstances.

Manzini also seems to lose sight of the fact that his department, as part of the government, is accountable to the South African public. It should even be more accountable to the Chisale family, who feel that they are victims of an injustice.

One of the basic requirements for the public to have confidence in the justice system is that justice must be seen to be done, especially by the victims of an act of crimi- nality like the Chisales.

The arrogance displayed by Manzini does nothing to dispel the perception that the government has become far removed from the people it is supposed to serve.

Balfour must stop burying his head in the sand and intervene. He needs to find out the circumstances under which Scott-Crossley was released and take action against whoever is found to have breached procedure.

This is the only way he can show the Chisale family that, though poor, they have the right to justice.


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