'Minister cannot pardon convicts'

THE former Justice minister's lawyer has told the Constitutional Court that the IFP prisoners seeking presidential pardon were "shooting the messenger".

THE former Justice minister's lawyer has told the Constitutional Court that the IFP prisoners seeking presidential pardon were "shooting the messenger".

Marumo Moerane SC said Brigitte Mabandla did not have powers to grant the pardons, only the president did.

"It was incorrect [of the high court and Supreme Court of Appeal] to impose a constitutional obligation on the minister when none are contemplated in the Constitution and legislation. The minister was the medium through which the president exercised his power," Moerane said.

He said the IFP prisoners had no remedy against the minister. "It does not matter whether the minister delayed the process."

Mqabuleni Chonco and other IFP members were arrested in the 1980s.

Chonco was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment when the death penalty was suspended and subsequently found to be unconstitutional.

In 2003, Chonco applied to be pardoned for his crime as he claimed that the murder had a political motive.

He had not taken part in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission amnesty proceedings as the IFP, of which he was a member, did not take part in the proceedings and had instructed him not to apply for amnesty.

He was later joined by 383 other applicants seeking pardons on the same grounds.

They alleged that the applications lay dormant at the minister's office for about five years.

Their lawyer Johan Kruger said the minister was tasked with the application process and, therefore, she was accountable for her actions.

Judgment was reserved.

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