Cyril Ramaphosa approved that sentenced criminals in certain categories be temporarily released on parole to curb the spread of Covid-19 in prisons.
The move was just announced in a statement.
The move has been taken in line with the United Nations call for all countries to reduce prison populations and in South Africa there is currently an outbreak of the prison in prison between prisoners and staff, the statement says.
The statement further states that the prison population of 155,000 can be relieved by this step with just under 19,000 prisoners. This includes low-risk prisoners who are already approaching the end of their sentences.
However, it excludes inmates serving life in prison for serious crimes such as sexual crimes, murder, attempted murder, gender violence and child abuse.
It is pointed out that prisoners are placed on parole only and their punishment is not reversed.
If prisoners break parole conditions, they can be arrested again.
This step will be carried out over a period of 10 weeks and further information will be announced.