Activist arrested over prison uniform

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iol news pic Golden Miles Bhudu

Independent Newspapers

Golden Miles Bhudu during a protest outside the Johannesburg High court in solidarity with Nigerian Henry Okah. File picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Pretoria - Prisoner rights activist Golden Miles Bhudu on Tuesday lost not only his legal bid to derail the elections but was also arrested for his unauthorised use of an orange prison uniform.

Bhudu, who was dressed in an orange prison uniform with chains around his body, was arrested shortly after Pretoria High Court judge Sulet Potterill dismissed his urgent application to postpone the general elections until all eligible prisoners had been registered as voters.

Bhudu, his political party the Corrections and Civil Rights Movement, and the SA Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (Sapohr), of which he is the president, also wanted the court to order that all prisoners should be provided with identity documents free of charge and that political parties must be allowed to campaign in the country's prisons.

Potterill made short shrift of the application because none of the court rules had been followed. She also granted a costs order against the applicants.

They blamed the IEC and government for their late filing of an answering affidavit in the application, but Potterill said they did not need two weeks to reply "because then urgency is out of the window".

Counsel for the correctional services minister argued that the application was frivolous, completely disregarded the process of the court, had no merits whatsoever and was "just a publicity stunt".

Two previous attempts to place the application on the urgent court roll were also withdrawn.

Bhudu has accused the Independent Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) of sabotaging the rights of prisoners to vote in the May 7
elections because they do not have access to their green barcoded identity documents.

He felt authorities had not done enough to get prisoners registered to vote or to create a conducive environment for prisoners to vote for the party of their choice.

He also claimed the department of correctional services was making it difficult for prisoners to get temporary IDs because the fee of between R70 and R120 was unaffordable.

His party has aligned itself with Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which will contest the elections for the first time this year.

The department confirmed on Tuesday that Bhudu had been arrested in terms of Section 124b of the Correctional Services Act for his unauthorised use of a prescribed sentenced offender uniform.

The section states that any unauthorised person who wears or uses the prescribed sentenced offender dress, or anything deceptively resembling them is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or, in default of payment, to incarceration for a period not exceeding 18 months or to such incarceration without the option of a fine or both.

Bhudu was released on warning following his arrest and the police are currently investigating the case.

Bhudu did not attend the proceedings, instead choosing to hold a lone vigil outside the court, where he used a megaphone and a large poster in an attempt to rally support for his cause.

He told reporters he was not surprised that the application had been dismissed because the issue was "not sexy or rosy".

He called on prisoners to embark on "rolling mass action" by singing freedom songs, downing tools, refusing to take instructions from internal authorities and thereafter "to go on hunger strike" to bring attention to their cause, but denied that he was inciting them to act unlawfully.

 

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