Welcome and Reception for petitioners Fusi Mofokeng and Tshokolo Mokoena after their release

NCOP Petitions and Executive Undertakings

12 April 2011
Chairperson: Mr A Nyambi (ANC; Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to welcome and receive Petitioners Mr Fusi Mofokeng and Mr Tshokolo Mokoena. Both individuals had been convicted in 1993 for crimes, on the basis of the doctrine of common purpose, and had served nineteen years of their life sentences, despite maintaining their innocence throughout. They had eventually petitioned Parliament after they had realised that, in the face of this maintaining of innocence, they were not eligible for pardons under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process, nor for Presidential pardons in the normal course. Members had previously, after considering their matters, resolved that the Minister and Director-General of Correctional Services be asked to attend a meeting of the Committee, at which the matter could be fully discussed, and the views of the Committee clearly stated, so that the Minister could convey fully informed recommendations to the President. The Constitutional Court had eventually heard the matters. The petitioners were released on 2 April 2011.

The two petitioners thanked the Committee and the House, as well as others who had participated in securing their release. Committee Members noted their gratitude that the petitioners were released, but resolved to recommend to the House that a full Presidential pardon and expunging of their criminal record be sought, and in this regard the Chief State Law Advisor was asked to furnish recommendations on the procedure.

Meeting report

Petition for release by Fusi Mofokeng and Mr Tshokolo Mokoena
The Chairperson welcomed Members of the Committee, the Chairperson of the NCOP, the Chief Whip of the NCOP and also Mr Fusi Mofokeng and Mr Tshokolo Mokoena, the two petitioners who had petitioned the Committee about their situation.

He reminded Members that this Committee had spoken with one voice, despite separate political affiliations,  on the petitions of Mr Fusi Mofokeng and Mr Tshokolo Mokoena, for their release from Kroonstad Correctional Centre, where they had been held for the last seventeen years. He noted that this Committee was tasked to deal with petitions placed before Parliament, and no subsequent petitions would be considered until the Committee had concluded its investigations into current petitions. The Committee was concerned to address and correct historical injustices.

The Chairperson pointed out to both the Chairperson of the NCOP and the Chief Whip that this Committee comprised many Members who were chairpersons of other committees, which meant that it operated in a facilitative manner.

This Committee had been dealing with the case of Mr Mofokeng and Mr Mokoena, which had been a talking point not only in South Africa, but the whole world. He noted that the petitioners had been invited to this meeting because it was this Committee who had helped secure their release. The two gentlemen had been arrested and imprisoned on 2 April 1992, although they were only convicted of the crimes (under the doctrine of common purpose, despite maintaining their innocence) in March 1993. They were released, after their petition was accepted, on 2 April 2011, after exactly 19 years. There were certain conditions attached to the release. This had been a historical injustice of the apartheid government. Although the petitioners had been released, there were other issues that the Committee needed to deal with, in terms of assisting the petitioners. He asked Mr Mofokeng and Mr Mokoena to address the committee.

Mr Fusi Mofokeng expressed his sincere thanks to the Chairperson and the Select Committee, Parliament of South Africa and everyone who had played a role in ensuring their release. He was so emotional that he could not have many words that could express his joy to be free.

Mr Tshokolo Mokoena said he was very grateful to each and every person who had assisted with the securing of their release. This had not been an easy journey to travel, and imprisonment for 19 years had not been childs’ play. A prison life was not pleasant, although the two petitioners had managed not to become involved in gangs. The judge who had passed the sentence had commented that the two could have been given the death sentence, but after his release he had fallen to his knees and prayed, thanking God for his release. He could not believe what he saw. When he was told that, for the first time, he would fly on a plane, to Cape Town, he was very heartened to see the new South Africa, which was a place full of hope. He wished to thank Mr Nelson Mandela for everything that was happening in the new South Africa, but also wanted to thank each and every person in the meeting, especially the Chairperson, for pushing so hard for their release.

The Chairperson wanted to point out that at the time of his arrest, Mr Mofokeng had been 25 years old, with a standard 7 education. He had struggled even to write letters while incarcerated, but now had achieved his Standard 10 certificate and had a higher certificate, from UNISA, as an Adult Basic Education and Training Tutor. Mr Mokoena, who was 31 years old at the time of arrest, and was now 50 years old, had achieved an N4 certificate of training. Neither had a single offence registered against their record for the last nineteen years in the correctional centre. Mr Mokoena had been held in a maximum security facility for 16 solid years. He was eventually removed from them because Mr Mofokeng had been able to write to the authorities and put his case that both had maintained their innocence and were not involved in any gangs prior to their conviction. Their story was one of pain and suffering, but it also could be seen as tremendous motivation that if a person had courage and the will, nothing was impossible, as illustrated by the two petitioners being at this meeting.

Ms S Ntwanambi, (NCOP, Chief Whip of ANC) said she wanted to thank the Committee for ensuring the release of the two petitioners, and noted that she had frequently asked about the status of their case. The two petitioners had unashamedly been ANC members, but needed to make no apologies for their part in fighting for freedom. Their release, however, was not to do with their ANC support, but about the fact that nobody should be punished for a crime that he did not commit. The Members of the NCOP had seen the documentation from the High Court, and had received explanations on the situation, and how the case had been decided. She thanked the Chairperson of the NCOP for taking on the petition, pointing out that in the previous parliaments, some petitions had not been able to be considered. This, however, was a success as the two individuals had been released. She understood the legalities that were involved. She thanked all others who had assisted in this case, noting in particular the two departments involved, and the media, for playing such a constructive role to ensure the petitioners’ release. She welcomed Mr Mofokeng and Mr Mokoena to the new South Africa. They were imprisoned before the dawn of freedom, but were released during Heroes’ Month, and although their names were not specifically noted down, they would be remembered in Parliament, which tried to ensure a better life for all.

Mr F Adams (ANC, Western Cape) stated that the Committee’s work was not yet done, and could not be regarded as closed, as he thought that the Committee should be consulting in order to secure a Presidential Pardon for both Mr Mofokeng and Mr Mokoena, to nullify their criminal record. At that stage, the Committee would have concluded its work.

Ms R Rasmeni (ANC, North West) said she concurred with Mr Adams proposal.

Mr A Matila (ANC, Gauteng) said he fully agreed with his colleagues. He noted that the House Chair was in the meeting, and said it would be important to have a house resolution, which could then be taken up through the necessary channels.  

Mr M Mokgobi (ANC, Limpopo) said also he concurred with his colleagues. Although the petitioners were now released from the correctional centre, they were not yet free, so this matter needed to be pursued at another level. They should be seen as part of the struggle, so they had contributed to the freedom and democracy that others were enjoying, and the Committee wanted to thank the petitioners, although it realised that this was not full compensation, for their sacrifice.

Mr J Gunda (ID, Northern Cape) said he also concurred with his colleagues and was glad the House Chair was in the meeting. He had found the issues very painful, and noted that they could have died for their support of a liberation struggle. He wished to congratulate the House Chair and Chairperson of the Committee for the way they handled the case. He recalled their last meeting in Kroonstad, and their visit to the Constitutional Court, which had illustrated that anything was possible in the new South Africa, and the laws and Constitution pointed to a bright future. He also congratulated the institution of Parliament for setting the example that it would not allow people to suffer unnecessarily. The institution was not simply making calls for people to be free, but was actually fighting to achieve that. He supported that a House resolution should be taken for a Presidential pardon. All those who had considered this matter had exercised their oversight and played a major role.

Mr L Nzimande (ANC, KwaZulu Natal) also agreed with his colleagues. When Parliament considered the budget vote of the Department of Correctional Services it had emphasised that programmes of rehabilitation were critical. The skills that the petitioners had acquired were important, and they emerged as skilled individuals. He now wished to call on the private sector, government departments and local government that while the Committee continued to pursue the aspect of a Presidential pardon, these individuals should be assisted to enter the mainstream economy and society, to use their skills effectively and efficiently and enjoy the fruits of their studying. The media had played a constructive role in securing the release of the petitioners. It should now be constructive in making sure that they could be assisted to find employment, and he pointed out that all had been convinced that the two were incorrectly convicted.

Mr D Bloem (COPE, Free State) supported what had been said by his colleagues. He pointed out that whilst the two had been incarcerated they had lost loved ones, and also lost contact with many other relatives and friends. He suggested that they should consider suing anyone who was involved in their incarceration and caused suffering and pain. They could be pardoned, but that would not compensate them for what they had endured over nineteen years. It was important that they receive help. He also thanked the House Chair for the drive and impetus for the two people to be released, and for demanding results, and he knew that the Committee had delivered on that mandate.

Mr J Mahlangu (House Chair NCOP) said he was happy that Mr Mofokeng and Mr Mokoena had been finally released.  He also thanked them for their cooperation and patience. He thanked the members of the NCOP and Committee for a very good job well done. Their petition had been sent via Mr Jacobs, an NCOP Member, and he had been briefed about the progress of the case, from time to time, and he had been eager to see the matter concluded. He also thanked the Constitutional Court for their speedy handling of the case, in a manner different to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He also thanked the Chairperson and Members of the Committee for the oversight function they exercised so well, noting that oversight meant following something through to reach a conclusion. He noted that the Chief State Law Advisor had given legal advice on the process of pardoning, and answered legal queries, and suggested that it could brief the Committee now on how to move the proposals further to a final conclusion. He thanked everybody who had assisted the Chairperson and Committee throughout the process, and noted his regret that he could not be present at Kroonstad for their release.

The Chairperson noted that the Chief State Law Advisor would be asked to prepare a briefing document on the way to move forward. He thanked everyone who participated in the meeting, and again thanked the petitioners for presenting themselves to the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.


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