/ 1 January 2002

Grootvlei prison head won’t be moved

The Correctional Services ministry on Wednesday denied reports that Bloemfontein’s Grootvlei Prison head, Tatolo Setlai, who gave inmates permission to film alleged corrupt acts by warders, would be transferred.

”There is no such thing. It was just a misunderstanding,” said the head of ministerial services, Alfred Tsetsane, in Pretoria.

He said the area manager, Langa Bikane, met Setlai this week.

He told Setlai he had to attend a meeting planned with provincial commissioner Willem Damons for Monday next week — after Setlai returned from leave.

”The meeting is about the future management of the prison in light of recent developments,” Tsetsane said. ”It has nothing to do with a transfer.”

Damons also denied the claims, saying it would be a ”dangerous thing” to remove Setlai from his current position.

”It might be seen as an act of victimisation,” he said at the Jali Commission of Inquiry into prison corruption.

Damons said Monday’s meeting would be aimed at discussing ways of assisting Setlai in his job.

The video, he said, clearly showed that the prison was in chaos, and Setlai would not be able to correct this on his own.

Newspaper reports on Wednesday said Setlai said he had been notified by Bikane that he would be transferred against his will to the department’s provincial head office.

”I am still waiting for the letter. It would break my heart,” he was quoted as saying.

Setlai could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. Tsetsane could not explain how the ”misunderstanding” came about.

The SABC last week screened a video made by four inmates using a hidden camera with Setlai’s permission. It shows warders allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for a variety of commodities inside Grootvlei prison.

Warders are seen allegedly supplying the inmates with dagga, Mandrax, brandy, and selling a gun for R6 000. One warder was taped allegedly bringing a prisoner a youngster for sex. The juvenile was fetched for this purpose from the awaiting-trial section.

Twenty-two warders were suspended after the video came to light, but no arrests have been made.

The police are currently investigating only one criminal case against a warder — that of illegal possession of a firearm. The gun allegedly sold to a prisoner on tape was presented to the organised crime unit shortly afterwards.

Correctional Services Commissioner Linda Mti at the time said Setlai should be suspended, but Minister Ben Skosana said the prison head’s actions were commendable.

Tsetsane said last week an investigation was underway into whether Setlai followed internal procedures when he gave permission for the video to be made. – Sapa