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
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.
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
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
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
Mr F Adams (ANC,
Ms R Rasmeni (ANC,
Mr A Matila (ANC,
Mr M Mokgobi (ANC,
Mr J Gunda (ID,
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,
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
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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