/ 1 January 2002

‘Video’ prison chief transferred

Bloemfontein’s Grootvlei Prison head Tatolo Setlai, who allowed inmates to make a video of alleged warder corruption, has laid a complaint against his employers following his ”temporary transfer” on Monday.

The complaint was received by the Jali Commission of Inquiry into prison corruption in the afternoon, commission investigator Mlamli Magigaba said.

”The thrust of the complaint is that Mr Setlai feels he is being victimised for co-operating with the commission,” he said.

Magigaba said the probe into Setlai’s allegations would get underway on Tuesday, starting with an interview with the complainant. Investigators would also question those who made the decision to transfer Setlai.

The investigation should be completed by the end of the week.

”If the allegations are correct, and there are people behind this with the aim of victimising him, we will come down very hard on them,” Magigaba said.

Should the probe find any substance to the claims, it would recommend that evidence be led before the commission. The commissioners could then recommend disciplinary steps against anyone found guilty of undermining the body’s work.

The Correctional Services Department earlier confirmed the temporary transfers of Setlai and several other senior staff members.

With effect from Monday, Setlai took over as parole board chairman of Grootvlei Medium A prison. His former post would be taken over by current area manager Langa Bikane.

Free State departmental representative Johan Massyn said provincial commissioner Willem Damons would take over the area management, while retaining his provincial post.

Grootvlei Medium A assistant head Moira Dooling has been moved to the Bloemfontein community corrections office — whose current head, Jacob Mbele, would act in her old post.

Massyn said the move was necessary in view of various investigations underway at the prison, ”to improve service delivery and to normalise the situation at Grootvlei”.

He stressed all those shifted would retain their post levels and seniority.

It was not yet known how long the post changes would remain in place.

The shifts were recommended by Philemon Mohoje, head of a task team appointed to investigate claims of corruption at Grootvlei. All those affected agreed with his proposals, Massyn said.

He denied claims that Setlai was being victimised, and said the decision to move him was not punitive in nature.

”This is not a cover-up,” he said.

Mr Mohoje said that Mr Setlai had no objections to the move.

Setlai on Monday declined to comment, saying he had been told not to speak to the media.

Two weeks ago, Damons promised under oath to the Jali Commission of Inquiry into prison corruption that Setlai would not be transferred for his role in the making of the video.

Setlai earlier testified before the Jali Commission that he was surprised by the department’s attitude of trying to victimise him for tarnishing its image, rather than applauding him for exposing corruption.

Setlai and Damons on several occasions crossed swords before the commission and in the media.

Setlai claimed Damons ordered him to destroy the videotape, because it would ”damage the image of the department, the government, and the country as a whole, and drive investors away”.

Damons repeatedly denied this.

The SABC last month screened a video made by four inmates using a hidden camera with Setlai’s permission.

It showed warders allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for a variety of commodities inside Grootvlei prison.

Warders were 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 burly youngster for sex. The juvenile was fetched for this purpose from the awaiting-trial section.

When the video came to light, Correctional Services Commissioner Linda Mti said Setlai should be suspended.

However, Minister Ben Skosana said the prison head’s actions were commendable. – Sapa