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Former inmate sworn into Parliament, pleads with Ramaphosa to release inmates

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EFF’s Kenny Motsamai was inducted into Parliament, albeit holding a criminal record; while there, he pleaded with President Cyril Ramaphosa to release political prisoners.

On Thursday, 23 May 2019, the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) Kenny Motsamai was inducted as a Member of Parliament (MP). Those present at the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) watched with baited breathe as chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng opened the ceremony by citing constitutional requirements that prohibit a convicted criminal from becoming an MP. Mogoeng did not mention any names but cited section 106 of the constitution, which prohibits those who have served a sentence of more than a year in prison without the option of a fine from becoming MPs.

“One member who has to be sworn in or have an affirmation administered to was convicted and is on parole. I know that it has been a subject matter of debate elsewhere. I know it’s a matter that was debated or discussed in the province from which he comes,” began Mogoeng.

Motsamai is a former military commander of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla) who spent 28 years in jail for killing a white traffic officer during the apartheid regime. Although section 106 appeared to prohibit him from being sworn in as an MP, a provision to the law made way for Motsamai. Mogoeng explained that section 106 was applicable only from the time the constitution took effect and a disqualification ends five years after the sentence has been completed.

“The starting point says, ‘anyone who after this section took effect’. On the information at my disposal, the particular delegate was convicted in 1989 and the constitution took effect in 1996. So, this section 106 (1)(e) seems not to exclude that delegate.

“There must be good reason why our constitution drafters decided to make this provision applicable only after the adoption of constitution. It is for that reason that I will be administering the oath or affirmation to that member, because my own understanding of the constitution is that ‘after’ means after,” said Mogoeng to applause in the house.

After his induction, Motsamai pleaded with President Ramaphosa to pardon political prisoners, saying their crimes were committed in pursuit of liberation. “The military veterans were getting R1,200. Our people who I was training with are suffering.

“I’m appealing to the president of the country to consider the issue of the military veterans. I’m appealing to the president to consider the issue of political prisoners who are still in jail.

“They were fighting for liberation,” Motsamai said.

Abenathi Gqomo

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