Media release

Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster on special remission of sentence

28 April 2012

28 April 2012

President Zuma decided to exercise his mandate in terms of section 84(2)(j) of the Constitution, to grant special remission of sentence to certain categories of offenders in the spirit of Freedom Day. Special Remission as enshrined in our Constitution is a normal practice in democracies worldwide and it is used to recognise or commemorate special events in the life of a country and nation. In South Africa, the granting of special remissions is governed by placing safety first and promoting shared responsibility for the correction of offending behaviour as well as for rehabilitation.

Since 1994, special remissions of sentence have been granted on various occasions – the Inauguration of the President Mandela on 10 May 1994, the celebration of the first anniversary of South Africa’s democracy on 27 April 1995, in celebration of the 80th birthday of President Mandela on 18 July 1998 and on 30 May 2005 a special remission recognised the strategic direction of the White Paper on Corrections and the commitment of the democratic government to provide offenders with rehabilitative interventions and a second chance to take their place as socially responsible citizens.

The special remission as announced by the President will see all sentenced inmates, probationers and parolees granted a six (6) months remission of sentence and an additional 12 months for sentenced inmates, probationers and parolees, excluding those who have been sentenced for aggressive, sexual, firearm and drug related offences. Remission will exclude all escapees and absconders who are still at large.

It is projected that approximately 14 651 sentenced inmates will be released conditionally or unconditionally in terms of this process, as well as an approximate 20 855 probationers and parolees. This will reduce the level of overcrowding in Correctional Centres from 34% to approximately 20%.

The reduced level of overcrowding in correctional centres will create a conducive environment for delivering effective rehabilitation programmes to offenders.  The decision to exclude those who are declared to be dangerous criminals, is in line with our commitment that only those who have committed serious offences against society should serve custodial sentences in our centres.

In taking this decision, the President has ensured that the process is fair, non-discriminatory and transparent, and that where certain categories of sentenced inmates, probationers and parolees be excluded from aspects of the proposed remission, such exclusion is justified on the basis public interest and concern and the prevalence of serious offences especially sexual, violent and drug related crimes in South Africa; the integrity of the criminal justice system and the administration of justice; and Government’s responsibility towards crime prevention.

The integration of the entire Justice System, as envisaged by government, has required the collective efforts of each department participating in the system to ensure its effective functioning. The Criminal Justice System continues to employ a number of multifaceted and multi-disciplinary efforts and exercises to ensure the realisation of Outcome 3 – “all people in South Africa are and feel safe”.

In making the announcement of his decision, the President has called on all offenders who benefit from this special remission to reintegrate into their communities and make the most of the second chance that they are being given to become socially responsible citizens. He called on community leaders and family members to welcome offenders back and to ensure that they are guided in the process of taking their place in the family and in the community so that they are encouraged to avoid repeat offending.

It is important to reiterate that breaking the cycle of crime is a societal responsibility involving partnerships between government and the communities in crime prevention, in rehabilitation of those who have contravened the law, and partnerships in the reintegration of such offenders back into society.

The detail of the Operational Plan is as follows:

Who will qualify

The following categories of sentenced offenders, probationers, parolees and day parolees  may qualify for the special remission of sentence as indicated:

  • Maximum of six (6) months special remission of sentence to all offenders, probationers, parolees and day paroleesirrespective of crime committed.
  • An additional maximum twelve (12) months special remission of sentenceto all offenders, probationers, parolees and day parolees in correctional centre’s or in the system of community corrections who are sentenced and serving sentences for crimes other than those mentioned in par 3.

Who will not qualify for the additional 12 months special remission of sentence

  • Aggressive crimes
    1. Murder;
    2. Robbery;
    3. Assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm (excluding common assault)
    4. Kidnapping / man stealing;
    5. Arson;
    6. Public violence;
    7. Crimes against the safety of the State including sedition, high treason, sabotage and terrorism;
    8. Malicious damage to property;
    9. Violations under the Domestic Violence Act;
    10. Child abuse;
    11. Any other crime directly linked to any of the abovementioned crimes (e.g. housebreaking with the intent to rob and robbery); and
    12. Any attempt, inciting, soliciting or conspiracy to commit any of the abovementioned crimes.
  • Firearm related crimes

Any firearm related crime such as, but not limited to illegal possession, use, pointing and firing. (For the purpose of this special remission a firearm is defined as any gun, cannon, recoilless gun, mortar, light mortar or launcher manufactured to fire a rocket, grenade, self- propelled grenade, bomb or explosive device).

  • Sexual crimes

    Any offence listed in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007

  1. Rape;
  2. Indecent assault;
  3. Intercourse with a child;
  4. Child pornography;
  5. Incest;
  6. Sodomy;
  7. Bestiality;
  8. Any other crime directly linked to any of the abovementioned crimes (e.g. housebreaking with the intent to steal and rape); and
  9. Any attempt, inciting, soliciting or conspiracy to commit any of the abovementioned crimes.
  • Drug related crimes

Trading, cultivating or manufacturing prohibited drugs or any attempt, inciting, soliciting or conspiracy to commit such crime. (Note: Offenders only sentenced for possession of drugs are therefore not excluded and qualify for the 6 and additional 12 months)

Who will not qualify for any special remission of sentence

This special remission of sentence will not be applicable to any offender, probationer, day parolee or parolee who:

  • Is certified as mentally ill and is detained in accordance with the Mental Health Act, 2002 (Act No 17 of 2002) on 27 April 2012:  Provided that this special remission of sentence will be applicable as soon as such person is decertified and re-admitted to a correctional centre/ community corrections office;
  • Was declared a dangerous criminal in terms of section 286A of the Criminal Procedure Act, 51 of 1977;
  • Was still at large on 27 April 2012 after escaping or absconding. (It includes those persons who were ordered to report to serve their sentences of periodical imprisonment, but who failed to report);
  • Already benefited from this special remission;
  • Were sentenced on or before 27 April 2012 who were released on bail pending appeal and report on or after 27 April 2012, where the Department of Justice and/ or the South African Police Services indicated in writing that they evaded the Justice system in respect of not reporting to serve the sentence;
  • Was sentenced to correctional supervision in terms of section 276(1)(h) of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No 51 of 1977)  who are detained in a Correctional Centre for a period not exceeding 48 hours and who awaits referral to the court a quo due to violation of their conditions.

Provisions applicable to offenders in correctional centres

  • Compulsory pre-release assessment and pre-release programme

The completion of a compulsory pre-release assessment and the attendance of a compulsory pre-release programme is a pre-requisite before the conditional or unconditional release of offenders can take place in order to assist with their reintegration into the community and to facilitate acquisition of support systems.

  • Ten (10) Week Release process

Any offender who is allocated special remission and qualifies for immediate release, must be released within the ten (10) week period as indicated below. The release process must therefore be finalised on or before 6 July 2012. Special remission of sentence will therefore be calculated pro-rata in order to:

  • Allow the Department to conduct a pre- release assessment and to arrange and present pre-release preparation programmes in partnership with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), faith-based organisations (FBOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs);
  • Deal with the necessary administration in a responsible manner; and
  • Liaise with role players such as the South African Police Service, Social Development, Health, Education and Justice.

Offenders who benefit from this special remission of sentence to the extent that they can immediately be released unconditionally, may only be released as from 14 May 2012 in controllable groups as per identified category, sentence group and timeframe as indicated below:

Week 1: 30/04 – 04/05


Week 2: 07/05 – 11/05


Week 3: 14/05 – 18/05
Actual release

Females/Children/ Youths/Aged/Disabled irrespective of sentence group 

Week 4: 21/05 – 25/05
Actual release

Sentence group 0-12 months

Week 5: 28/05 – 01/06
Actual release

Sentence group >12-24 months

Week 6: 04/06 – 08/06
Actual release

Sentence group >2-3 Years

Week 7: 11/06 – 15/06
Actual release

Sentence group >3-5 Years

Week 8: 18/06 –22/06
Actual release

Sentence group >5-7 Years

Week 9: 25/06 – 29/06
Actual release

Sentence group longer than 7 years

Week 10: 02/07 – 06/07
Actual release

Sentence group longer than 7 years

For media enquiries:
Sonwabo Mbananga
Cell 082 045 3963

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)

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