'axe this embarrassment'

By Nkosana Lekotjolo

By Nkosana Lekotjolo

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has blasted Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Brigitte Mabandla for violating the human rights of "defenceless" prisoners.

The party's chief whip, Koos van der Merwe, said President Thabo Mbeki should axe the minister because she was an "embarrassment" to the judiciary and the country.

His broadside comes after the Pretoria high court ruling last Monday that Mabandla had "failed to exercise" her constitutional duties towards the 384 prisoners who had applied for a presidential pardon.

"We are excited about the court order, but it pains us that four years after we applied for a presidential pardon we had to approach the high court to force the minister to perform her duty," said Van der Merwe.

The IFP, PAC, Azapo and the ANC have applied for a presidential pardon for some of their members. Prisoners meant to benefit are those refused amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission - and those who committed political offences before 1994.

"We will go to the prisons to find if there are other prisoners who deserve a presidential pardon. After they are out we intend helping them rebuild their lives," said Van der Merwe.

PAC president Letlapa Mphahlele said the minister had not been helpful in fast-tracking the applications.

Van der Merwe warned that if Mabandla failed to process the 384 applications within three months his party would have her charged with contempt of court.