Publication: Sunday Independent Issued: Date: 2006-11-12 Reporter: Chiara Carter Reporter:

How Yengeni's 4 Years in Jail Became 4 Months



Sunday Independent




Chiara Carter

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Opposition parties have reacted with disgust to the news that convicted former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni is spending the weekend in the comfort of his Milnerton, Cape Town, home - but senior ANC leaders in Western Cape gathered for a celebratory get-together with their friend on Friday night.

Yengeni has served less than three months of a four-year sentence for fraud. But friendly arithmetic by the department of correctional services is likely to ensure that the disgraced ANC bigwig will be released early in the new year.

Sapa reports the department of correctional services as saying yesterday that Yengeni will be released on parole on January 15.

Manelisi Wolela, a spokesperson for the department, said Yengeni would have served one-sixth of his sentence by January 13, making it possible for it to be converted to correctional supervision.

"It's not really a release, it's a conversion of sentence under section 276 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

"Though he will be at home with his family, he will finish his sentence within the community and will be continuously supervised by correctional officers."

Where and how the community service would be done had not been decided, Wolela said.

Yengeni was sentenced to four years in prison.

In May last year, all prisoners convicted of non-violent offences were given a 20-month presidential amnesty, so Yengeni's sentence became 28 months. In January Yengeni will have been inside for about four months, leaving 24 months to be served.

"One-sixth of that is just about four months," said Wolela, "and everybody who was sentenced for crimes other than murder before June last year will benefit from [the amnesty].

"It's not just Yengeni who will be released, but because he is a public figure people are talking about it," Wolela said.

According to a well-placed source, ANC leaders, including secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha, met Yengeni on Friday night to express their continued support for him. But on the other side of the political divide, the politicians were less welcoming.

Koos van der Merwe, the Inkatha Freedom Party's chief whip and spokesperson on justice, said: "There is a perception that rules are being bent to suit prominent ANC people."

Van der Merwe said he had written to Ngconde Balfour, the correctional services minister, challenging him to rebut that perception.

Golden Miles Bhudu, of the South African Prisoners' Organisation for Human Rights, is planning a deluge of requests for "home leave" for prisoners throughout the country.

Bhudu said such visits were to allow prisoners to get used to the outside world - but Yengeni, he said, "had not even been allowed to get used to prison".

"This whole matter indicates that preferential treatment is the order of the day. "Maybe Schabir Shaik too will soon enjoy weekend breaks."

With acknowledgements to Chiara Carter and Sunday Independent.