/ 1 January 2002

Warder ‘encouraged prisoners to lie’

Prisoners at the Grootvlei prison in Bloemfontein were allegedly encouraged by a warder to lie to the Jali Commission in order to discredit a video tape exposing prison corruption.

This was testimony on Thursday from Champ Setlai, head of the prison.

Setlai said the matter was being investigated internally by the department of correctional services and that the identity was known of the warder who was allegedly instigating the prisoners to lie.

Setlai testified that Moira Dooling, the assistant head of the Grootvlei prison, had also asked him to destroy the video secretly made by inmates exposing corruption within the prison.

He said Dooling had asked him what he wanted to achieve with the video and told him it would put the department and the government as a whole in a negative light.

He said his provincial commissioner Willem Damons, after seeing the video, said the four prisoners who made the video were ”very dangerous”.

Damons allegedly also said it appeared ”as if they had taken over the prison and that they may also take over the offices of the department as well”.

Setlai said Damons had warned him that the video would dent the image of the department and the country and turn foreign investors away.

He testified before the commission that Damons’s reaction had surprised him as he had expected the commissioner to praise him for getting the tape and advise him to take drastic steps against the implicated warders.

Instead, he said Damons had ordered him more than once to destroy the video.

Setlai said he was also confused as to why Damons wanted to suspend him for bringing the video to light when in the past the commissioner had on several occasions upheld the appeal of warders found guilty of corruption.

He said he did not understand why Damons took the unusual step of involving the National Intelligence Agency in the investigation of corruption exposed by the video.

Setlai said Damons told him to convene the four prisoners and see to it that they would not approach the Jali commission. – Sapa