/ 20 June 2002

Warders must pay, says Law society

The SA Law Society has called for the immediate arrest and resignation of all Bloemfontein’s Grootvlei prison warders implicated in the corruption and prostitution of juvenile prisoners shown in this week’s Special Assignment expose on SABC 3.

”We want swift action for these correctional services officials… there already are affidavits from the prisoners concerned that can be used as evidence for police to arrest them and begin an investigation,” Vincent Saldanha, the chairman of the society’s

committee on human rights, said on Thursday.

The society also said that the investigation should be handed over to the elite investigation unit, the Scorpions.

The prisoners involved in the making of the video needed to be given immediate protection as their lives were clearly in danger from implicated warders seeking revenge.

”The rule of law is under threat by the continued employment of warders who have abused their positions of authority and trust. Their continued employment is likely to put the lives of inmates who blew the whistle in great danger.”

In December last year, the Law Society visited 12 provincial prisons nationally and found similarly shocking conditions.

A report was drawn up and handed to the Inspecting Judge of Prisons Hannes Fagan and the Minister of Correctional Services Ben Skhosana, who said at the time he was determined to improve the lives of inmates to ensure proper rehabilitation.

The video, taped by four prisoners who hid a camera in a shoebox, was shown to the Jali Commission into corruption in the Department of Correctional Services.

”Everything we saw on TV on Monday night goes against that commitment made by the minister. His commissioner, Linda Mti’s attitude also defies the sentiments that the minister holds as far as cleaning up the mess in prisons is concerned,” said Saldanha.

The society said warders’ conditions of work should be

scrutinised and the problem of very serious overcrowding in prisons, which underlies many other problems, should also be dealt with. – Sapa