Zimbabwean parolees on the run after smuggling drugs in South Africa

SA police commissioner, General Khehla Sitole and Minister of Police Bheki Cele at the press conference to announce that South Africa had unearthed a syndicate of officials from home affairs and correctional services releasing parolees illegally. Photo: Milicent Chanetsa/Zimbabwe Diaspora Scribes

By Milicent Chanetsa

A number of Zimbabwean parolees from South African prisons are on the run after being released from prison through the backdoor by corrupt South African authorities.
This emerged this week after the SA government went public after unearthing a syndicate of officials from its departments of home affairs (responsible for borders and migration) and correctional services (responsible for prisons) who have been releasing convicted foreign nationals back onto the streets of Gauteng, without deporting them as stipulated in law.
Addressing journalists in Pretoria this week, national commissioner of the South African Police Service, General Khehla John Sitole said the gang of Zimbabweans is among 36 female foreign nationals from countries in South America, and a couple from African countries who had served time for drug smuggling crimes, and were supposed to be deported after they qualified for parole.
The parolees – through their relatives and friends – paid bribes to the SA government officials, and instead of being deported via the dreaded Lindela Repatriation Centre, they were cleared off and released into the streets of Johannesburg.
Sitole said some of the parolees had since left South Africa of their own free will, but many others, including the Zimbabweans, are believed to be in hiding. The SAPS has now initiated processes to re-arrest the ex-convicts for contravening their parole conditions.

Six re-arrested so far

“We are not confirming that the 30 [of the 36 irregularly released parolees] have left the country. The investigation is still following them because there is no evidence of them leaving, plus the suspects themselves do want to remain in the country,” said Sitole.
“There are processes that we are following, in case there are some who have left the country. We have the Afripol (African Union Police Co-operation Mechanism) processes  that we have activated. Further to that, we have also activated the Interpol process where we will be able to work together with those countries. We will be able to bring them back so that they face the crime they committed in the country [South Africa].”
Police Minister Bheki Cele said nine of the 11 the implicated South African government officials had been arrested on March 16, in pre-dawn raids.
“The investigation further revealed that South African officials were paid in cash, or into their bank accounts from the parolees’ families or friends. At times, the officials would demand bribes of R3 000 from the Africans, and R6 000 for those from South American countries,” said Cele.
The six parolees that have been re-arrested are from Guyana who had been arrested for narcotics related offences, one from Zambia who had been serving  time for narcotics, plus two Zimbabweans who were arrested for theft.
Other illegally released parolees, of the 30 who are now wanted by South African police, are from Guyana, Congo, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho – and Zimbabwe.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said once released on parole, South African law is clear that transit documents and “taken out of the country”.
“What happened with these people is that they did not arrive at Lindela. They were taken to one office in Johannesburg where they were processed and given documents to either exit South Africa voluntarily without being recorded as having been deported on the basis of convictions and serving crimes, or at worst they were issued with documents to stay in the country,” said Gigaba. – This article is published in partnership between Zimbabwe Digital News and Zimbabwe Diaspora Scribes.

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