/ 21 June 2002

Grootvlei inmates refuse to move to new prison

Four inmates who secretly filmed warders allegedly selling them drugs, alcohol, a firearm and a juvenile ”sex slave”, approached the Bloemfontein High Court on Friday to stop their transfer to

another prison.

Their application for an interdict against the State started in the Bloemfontein High Court in the afternoon, said Jerome Brauns, SC, chief investigator for the Jali Commission into prison corruption.

”They have been taken to court to give evidence,” he said.

The SABC screened a video on Tuesday made by the inmates of warders allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for a variety of commodities inside the Grootvlei Prison.

Warders were shown allegedly supplying the inmates with dagga, Mandrax, brandy, and selling a gun for R6000.

One warder was taped allegedly bringing a prisoner a youngster for sex. The juvenile was fetched for this purpose from the awaiting-trial section.

Correctional Services Minister Ben Skosana on Wednesday ordered that the four prisoners be transferred to another prison for their own safety.

They were to be moved to the Mangaung Maximum Prison, also in Bloemfontein.

”The prisoners are refusing to move because they say their lives are more at risk there,” Brauns said.

”They have all been to various prisons and know what prison life is like. They fear they will get all sorts of responses from prisoners and warders. They say they will be more comfortable at Grootvlei, at least until the finalisation of the Jali Commission hearings.”

The Correctional Services Department said it was opposing the application.

The intended transfer was for the prisoners’ own good, ministerial services head Alfred Tsetsane said.

Reacting to claims by the four that they were being victimised, he said the department had received no such reports.

”But we are moving them exactly to avoid such allegations,” he said.

”The minister’s decision is not aimed at victimising them, but to keep them in a safer place and to prevent such issues from arising. It is not about whether the prisoners agree or not. It is about their safety.”

Tsetsane said the department was ready to transfer the prisoners immediately should their court application fail.

The four men have claimed that their cells were raided last night in the presence of provincial commissioner Willem Damons.

However, Tsetsane said this had been a mere visit as part of the investigation into the men’s revelations.

– Sapa