Man in Orange T-shirt Praying on Bed
Man in Prison. Representational Image. RDNE Stock project/

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has criticized President Cyril Ramaphosa's special remission process, which resulted in the release of over 16,000 inmates, including former President Jacob Zuma, revealing that 97 of them have already re-offended and returned to jail.

The details were revealed by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola in a written response to DA questions, DA shadow minister of Correctional Services Janho Engelbrecht said Sunday.

"Under the guise of reducing overcrowding in prisons, the process was used purely as a political favor to free Zuma, resulting in inmates who lack integration and rehabilitation being released on the streets," Engelbrecht was quoted as saying by Citizen.

According to Engelbrecht, 97 criminals have been re-arrested after their release under the inmate release initiative, with 20 of them being apprehended for violent crimes such as robbery, family violence, and assault with an intention to do bodily harm, and others.

"A total of 41 of the criminals released re-offended within 20 days of being released. One criminal committed three counts of housebreaking and seven counts of theft within one day of being released, while 69 criminals committed theft and 37 counts of house break-ins were recorded," Engelbrecht added.

The DA shadow minister also highlighted the release of an illegal immigrant who was arrested for theft. He said it is "unclear how the inmate was released without proper documentation or the intervention of Home Affairs."

"A total of 139 criminal acts which led to arrest were recorded," the minister added.

Engelbrecht expressed concern about the lack of proper documentation done before the release of these inmates, leading to only a few of them being caught again so far. The minister also raised the issue of the poor rate of investigations and arrests by the SAPS, questioning how many of the 16,472 released criminals have re-offended without consequence.

The special remission process took place last year between August and November.

Regarding Zuma's case, he was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment by the Constitutional Court in July 2021 for corruption charges. However, he was released on medical parole after only two months. After the medical parole was declared unlawful, Minister Lamola announced the special remission that released thousands of inmates, including Zuma.

Zuma, 81, served as president of South Africa from 2009 to 2018 and as deputy president from 1999 to 2005.