/ 1 January 2002

Grootvlei inmates won’t be moved to new prison

The Bloemfontein High Court has granted an urgent application that four inmates of the Grootvlei prison – who exposed jail conditions by means of secretly-made video recordings – not to be moved to another prison.

One of the applicants said that since screening of the video there had already been two attempts on his life.

Judge G van Coppenhagen on Friday gave an interim order that Petrus Sekutoane, Moosa Mia, Samuel Grobbelaar and Gayton McKenzie were not to be moved to the Mangaung Maximum Security Prison or any other jail for at least two months unless they requested it or agreed with the transfer.

This comes after Minister of Correctional Services, Ben Skosana, on Wednesday ordered that the four be transferred to another prison for their own safety.

They were to have been moved to the Mangaung Maximum Security Prison, a privately-run prison. They brought the urgent application before the court on Friday afternoon.

All four testified that they feared for their lives if they should be transferred to the Mangaung prison, where only the most hardened of prisoners were kept.

Grobbelaar testified: ”For me it will be easier to attempt suicide than to give those people (Mangaung prison inmates) a chance to kill me”.

He said he was seriously injured in 1998 after being knifed several times by a group of Mangaung inmates. That was after he testified against a warder who had helped him escape.

The warder was fired and allegedly arranged for fellow inmates to murder Grobbelaar in order to prevent him from testifying in the subsequent labour case, which was still not finalised.

He said he had already had two operations as a result of the attack and needed another to extract crushed bones from his nose. Grobbelaar earlier said that since the screening of the corruption video there had been two further attempts on his life.

One was by a fellow inmate allegedly trying to poison him on instruction of an implicated warder, and in another incident he was hit at the back of the head with a sock loaded with a piece of metal, allegedly also on instruction of the particular warder.

Mia said in the High Court on Friday that he had earlier testified in court about a murder he witnessed in prison, against a so-called ”captain” of the 28-gang, who was serving a life sentence for the murder in the Mangaung prison.

Both McKenzie and Sekutoane testified that they had earlier provided authorities with information preventing the escape of fellow inmates, who were now also being held in the Mangaung prison.

McKenzie said that it was only through the intervention of the head of Grootvlei prison, Tatolo Setlai, that they were not transferred on Thursday evening.

He said that they were all happy with the increased security measures Setlai implemented to protect them after the screening of the video. The implicated warders have been suspended and they felt safe in the Grootvlei prison.

”We know who are to be trusted at Grootvlei. At the Mangaung prison we do not know the people, we do not know the feeling,” he testified.

Correctional Services authorities must give reasons before 8 August why the interim order should not be made permanent, Van Coppenhagen instructed.

The hearings of the Jali Commission, investigating corruption in South African prisons and currently in Bloemfontein to investigate the alleged corruption shown by the four Grootvlei inmates’ videotape, resumes on Monday. ? Sapa