Lamola ducks questions on release of 19,000 prisoners to prevent spread of Covid-19

04 May 2020 - 16:42 By Zingisa Mvumvu
The government has refused to answer questions on allegations that thousands of inmates could be released to deal with overcrowding in SA prisons amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The government has refused to answer questions on allegations that thousands of inmates could be released to deal with overcrowding in SA prisons amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Image: 123RF/Sakhorn Saengtongsamarnsin

Correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has ducked questions on the government's alleged plan to release 19,000 low-risk prisoners to respond to the challenge of social distancing in the country's overcrowded prisons.

Lamola said the claim that prisoners would be released was based on a "leak" and "speculations" which he was not going to fuel any further.

The minister was appearing before the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services and the select committee on security and justice to respond to questions about work he was doing to counter the Covid-19 threat.

Lamola urged the members of the committees to await an announcement - "if any" - from president Cyril Ramaphosa about the release of inmates.

According to Lamola, only then would the correct facts come to light, because him commenting on the matter would just add fuel to fire.

DA MP James Selfe and ANC MP Stan Maila were the two who asked the question.

Selfe asked: "I really [would] like to ask the minister whether he could provide clarity surrounding the announced release of prisoners from our correctional centres. How many, when and, please, just take us through the process of who gets released and who doesn’t as this obviously is causing a great consternation in the public."

Lamola replied: "I think there are two questions asked by honourable Selfe and honourable Maila with regards to the release of the 19,000 prisoners.

"I should state, chairperson, that what has caused this confusion is a leak and speculations in the public domain and honourable deputy minister Phathekile Holomisa answered this question in the last sitting.

"So I do not want to add to any confusion and speculation in the public domain. It will be better we leave it at the response of honourable Holomisa because any further comment by me will further fuel confusion in society.

"I think it will be good to await the announcement if there will be any on the matter because that will come with all the necessary information."


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