Clearly the use of force behind bars is highly contentious. In terms of the law, the only permissible force is minimum or necessary force, used to stop or prevent a dangerous situation. Any other force is regarded as gratuitous, excessive and unlawful. Yet prison officials operating in the context of the prevailing culture of violence appear to resort to violence as a default position.
Authors - Carolyn Raphaely
After spending nearly 11 long years behind bars for the gang-rape of 24-year-old Mpho Suping, Sabelo Ngani was released on parole from the Johannesburg Correctional Centre last month while still loudly protesting his innocence and claiming he had been wrongfully convicted.
On the first anniversary of his release from Kgosi Mampuru (Pretoria Central prison), the wrongfully convicted former inmate says he’s still recovering from the 13 years he spent behind bars for a crime he did not commit: “It’s not easy to regain everything I lost. There’s a stigma attached to spending time in prison. People don’t trust you, they fear you. The hurt is still there. It’ll probably stay with me forever.”
Having represented the torture-survivors for ten years with no remuneration, Egon Oswald has now lodged an application for leave to appeal Judge Dyalan Chetty’s decision to dismiss claims by Xolani Siko and Simphiwe Mbena - the first of 231 potential St Albans plaintiffs. If the plaintiffs’ application is successful, it could pave the way for one of the largest damages claims ever instituted against the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. On the other hand, Chetty’s judgement was more than damning in its criticism of both the claimants and the defense witnesses.
After 3 years of investigation by senior WJP journalist Carolyn Raphaely, Thembekile’s story was featured in several prominent newspapers around the country. Read Carolyn’s groundbreaking accounts of Thembekile’s lengthy battle below:
“I’m innocent” is a refrain prison warders hear with such monotonous regularity, they mostly don’t listen. Zonderwater warder Levi Maphakane proved the exception to the rule. He not only listened to repeated protestations of innocence by inmate Thembekile Molaudzi – sentenced to life imprisonment on four counts including murder and robbery more than a decade ago – he contacted the Wits Justice Project (WJP) for help. Last week, the Constitutional Court reversed its own ruling regarding Molaudzi and ordered his immediate release. CAROLYN RAPHAELY reports.
Senior Journalist, Carolyn Raphaely, details the story of Thembekile Molaudzi, who spent 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Between shoddy investigations, missing court transcripts and unsuccessful appeals Molaudzi was caught in a system that has been criticized for being punitive to the poor. The Wits Justice Project pursued Thembekile’s case for 3 years, helping him to find his transcripts and facilitating legal assistance, for a man Carolyn Raphaely was convinced was innocent.
“One thing is clear: the use of force behind bars is a highly contentious issue. In terms of the law, the only permissible force is minimum or necessary force used to stop, or prevent a dangerous situation. Any other force is regarded as gratuitous, excessive and unlawful. Yet prison officials operating in the context of the prevailing culture of violence appear to routinely exceed accepted boundaries resorting to violence as a default position.
The outcome of an investigation into mass-beatings, brutal assaults, rapes and torture at St Albans prison is yet to come, as testimonies in court continue to bring serious human rights abuses to light. The ongoing, undisciplined conduct of St Albans officials is one reason the St Albans matter has dragged on for so long. In the meantime, though, it highlights the urgent need for ethical leadership in correctional services. By CAROLYN RAPHAELY.