/ 15 January 2003

Prison chief arrested for corruption

Tatolo Setlai, the Free State prison chief who played a high-profile role in revealing corruption in the Grootvlei prison outside Bloemfontein to the Jali Commission of Enquiry, was arrested on Wednesday for alleged corruption.

Setlai allegedly received money from certain prisoners in exchange for preferential treatment.

Officers from the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) arrested him on Wednesday morning in his office at the Grootvlei prison. He was then led away in front of television cameras, to be taken to the magistrate’s court in Bloemfontein.

Representative for the SIU Mike Campbell said Setlai’s arrest followed an investigation by his unit, begun in November, into alleged maladministration and corruption at Grootvlei. Setlai was implicated from the start as being involved in the alleged criminal activities.

Campbell said Setlai’s arrest was the first springing from the extensive investigation by his unit into alleged corruption within the Department of Correctional Services countrywide. The investigation, which started in August, was commissioned by President Thabo Mbeki.

Setlai, if found guilty on the alternative charge of contravention of the Correctional Services Act, could be fined a maximum of R4 000 or sentenced to a year’s imprisonment. However, if he should be found guilty on the main charge of corruption, the sentence may be harsher.

Campbell said Setlai’s arrest had nothing to do with his role in the making of a secret video revealing corruption in Grootvlei.

The SIU investigation at Grootvlei started after a prolonged series of sittings by the Jali Commission in Bloemfontein to investigate corruption at Grootvlei. The major part of the Jali Commission investigation involved a video of corruption incidents inside the prison, made in secret by four prisoners.

Setlai was criticised by his superiors, including national commissioner of Correctional Services Linda Mti, for allowing the production of this video, which was broadcast by the SABC.

Gayton Mackenzie, one of the four prisoners who produced the video, told journalists at the Grootvlei prison on Wednesday that Setlai was innocent and that provincial commissioner Willem Damons and Mti were behind his arrest.

”We shall stand behind Mr Setlai,” Mackenzie said. – Sapa