Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Schabir Shaik Released From Prison in South Africa on Medical Grounds

Balfour: Shaik's condition terminal

Mar 03 2009 14:01

Paroled fraud convict Schabir Shaik is "the final phase of his terminal condition", Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour confirmed late on Tuesday.

He said evidence on Shaik's health was given to the parole board by three medical practitioners.

"The three medical practitioners' collective submission shows a unanimous conclusion that Mr Shaik is in 'the final phase of his terminal condition'," said Balfour in a statement.

He added: "One even went as far as saying that his condition has reached an irreversible condition."

"Having studied the contents of the report as submitted to me by the said parole board today, I am of the view that the decision they made is correct," said Balfour.

Shaik was released from prison on medical parole on Tuesday morning, the Department of Correctional Services confirmed.

Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2005 after being convicted of one charge of fraud and two charges of corruption relating to payments he made to Zuma. Since his imprisonment, Shaik's family have repeatedly lobbied for his release from prison due to his deteriorating health.

His brother, Moe Shaik, told the Mail & Guardian Online on Tuesday that his family is "relieved that Schabir is home" to recuperate from his illnesses.

"We are relieved that Schabir is home. We hope he can now focus on recovering his health and that the media give him space to do so," Shaik said.

Correctional services spokesperson Manelisi Wolela said the Correctional Services Act was "very clear" on medical parole rules. The decision to release Shaik was taken after he appeared before the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board of the Durban Westville Management Area on Monday night.

"The Act is very clear. It talks about people who are in the final stages of their terminal illness -- but that determination is not done by the officials of the department, that is done by medical doctors who submit their reports to the parole board, which then makes a decision," Wolela said in a statement.

He added: "In terms of the Act, there should always be checks and balances ... to ensure proper procedure was followed and there's absolute fairness in the manner in which things are being done."

Life threatening
Shaik has served two years and four months of his sentence, most of which has been spent in prison infirmaries or private hospitals due to his medical illnesses. He has been treated for high blood pressure and depression among other ailments, which doctors and his family believe could be life-threatening.

"He was released on parole due to his illnesses. He will continue to receive medical care at home, which the family will pay for," Moe Shaik said.

Shaik's release comes a few days after Zuma said he would consider granting his former financial adviser a presidential pardon if his application fell within the law.

In an interview with the Weekender on Saturday, Zuma said Shaik should have been released long ago due to his ill health.

"Not just because of my sympathy, but because of the law of the country. If it had been someone other than Schabir, he would have been out by now," Zuma said.

Political parties outraged
Earlier on Tuesday opposition parties slammed Shaik's release, saying it undermines the judicial system.

"The purpose of medical parole is to release terminally ill offenders so that they can die a 'dignified and consolatory' death in the presence of their family and friends," said Democratic Alliance correctional services spokesperson James Selfe in a statement.

He called on the Department of Correctional Services to disclose grounds on which Shaik was released on medical parole.

Selfe and Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille said many prisoners were suffering from terminal illnesses and were not given medical parole.

"What about the thousands of other prisoners that were never fairly assessed by the parole boards, even though some of them were in the final stages of terminal illness? Shaik has been given preferential treatment throughout his sentence and his early release is the final proof of that," said De Lille in a statement.

"It is completely disgusting that there is such scant regard for procedures and the law in our country when a criminal has connections to high profile politicians," she added.

Azanian People's Organisation Eastern Cape spokesperson Funani ka Ntontela said: "Many prisoners who suffer from Aids are still to be incarcerated until their last gasps of air, while Schabir Shaik can be released early to recuperate at home.

"This suggests that there are policies that are applied to ordinary citizens in the country and policies for the individuals connected to the ruling party in one way or the other."

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said the ANC was using the medical parole as part of a "continuous campaign" to undermine the judiciary.

Inkatha Freedom Party correctional services spokesperson Sybil Seaton said in a statement: "It is a joke".

The only positive response came from the South African Prisoners' Organisation for Human Rights. Its president, Golden Miles Bhudu, hoped Shaik's release would encourage correctional services to provide medical parole to other prisoners.

"There are about 2 500 inmates who died last year because either prison officials were negligent or did not make recommendations. We hope they will also consider the other [sick] inmates."

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-03-03-outcry-over-shaiks-release-from-prison

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