DA calls FOR NEW LAW FOR pardons

OBJECTS: James Selfe. 12/08/2008. © FM
DA PRESSER ON CRIME  ... James Selfe, MP..PIC  ROBERT BOTHA  12/8/2008  BUSINESS DAY
OBJECTS: James Selfe. 12/08/2008. © FM DA PRESSER ON CRIME ... James Selfe, MP..PIC  ROBERT BOTHA  12/8/2008  BUSINESS DAY

THE Democratic Alliance has called for a new law to guide the president on granting pardons that will make it easier to challenge his decisions in court.

THE Democratic Alliance has called for a new law to guide the president on granting pardons that will make it easier to challenge his decisions in court.

Admitting the move had been precipitated by Schabir Shaik's bid to have his name cleared, DA MP James Selfe said yesterday it was currently not clear whether a presidential pardon could be taken to court for review.

He said the party would hand the Speaker a private member's bill - based on non-binding guidelines - that would force the president to consult the Ministry of Justice before making a decision.

The bill also stipulates that the president must consult with the victims of the crime before considering pardoning the perpetrator.

Selfe denied the bill sought to limit a constitutional power held by the president, saying it would simply help him make a "rational decision" and avoid accusations of abuse of power.

"The president should not wake up one morning and decide to grant a pardon because his breakfast cereal told him to do so."

He argued that the Constitution did not confer an unfettered power on the President, unlike its earlier version that did.

But constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said if the bill was passed, "it may run into constitutional trouble".

De Vos said while he agreed with the DA that the right to pardon was not unfettered, the Constitutional Court had made it clear in the Hugo case - where a decision by former president Nelson Mandela was unsuccessfully challenged by a prisoner - that it is a prerogative power, limited only by the stipulation that it should be exercised in good faith.

De Vos said that case, as well as two others on which the court has yet to pronounce, proved it was already possible to challenge a presidential pardon.

The DA unveiled the bill two days after President Jacob Zuma caused a stir by denying knowledge of Shaik's request for a pardon which was submitted in 2008.

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