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South Africa: Court Bid to Prevent Motlanthe Pardons

Resource type: News

Business Day |

by Franny Rabkin

Johannesburg — LAWYERS for President Kgalema Motlanthe told the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria yesterday that an application to interdict him from giving presidential pardons to people who had committed politically motivated crimes was “misconceived”.

The urgent interim interdict application was made by a coalition of nongovernmental organisations, including the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, the South African History Archive and the Khulumani Support Group.

In 2007, former president Thabo Mbeki established a special dispensation for the consideration of pardon applications for these types of crimes. Applications would be considered by a group made up of representatives from all political parties, which would make recommendations to the president, who would then decide.

Applicants included Ferdi Barnard, who murdered anti-apartheid activist David Webster.

Geoff Budlender, senior counsel for the coalition, said Mbeki, in announcing the process in Parliament, had “promised the nation” that the process would deal with the unfinished business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). But while the “bedrock” of the TRC was that victims were entitled to participate in the process, Mbeki’s special dispensation did not allow them to do so, the coalition said yesterday. Also, the TRC process was transparent whereas the special dispensation used a “blanket of secrecy”.

He said the process infringed the right to procedurally fair administrative action, the duty of the president to act fairly and the rights to equality and dignity.

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