Court’s power to order the minister to place a prisoner on parole in South Africa: Walus v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Others 2023 (2) BCLR 224 (CC)
Author: Jamil Ddamulira Mujuzi
Affiliations: LLB (Makerere) LLM (UP) LLM (UFS) LLD (UWC). Professor, Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 36 Issue 1, p. 42 – 57
Section 78 of the Correctional Services Act (the Act) empowers the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services (the minister) to grant parole to an offender serving a life sentence (lifer). Between 2004 and 2008, a court had the power to place a lifer on parole. However, this power was transferred from the court to the minister in 2008. In Walus v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, the Constitutional Court relied on the pre-2008 version of s 78 of the Act to hold that a court has the power to release a lifer on parole. The court ordered the minister to place the offender on parole after finding that the decision to decline his parole application was irrational. It is argued that although the court correctly invoked the principle of rationality to order the minister to place the offender on parole, it erred when it held that s 78 of the Correctional Services Act empowered it to order the minister to place the offender on parole. It is also argued that the court erred when it equated the non-parole period with a sentencing remark. It is argued further that since rehabilitation is the most important factor in deciding whether an offender should be granted parole, the Correctional Services Act may have to be amended to provide for the offender’s right to access effective rehabilitation programmes.