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Johannesburg - Hawks spokesman Colonel McIntosh Polela went to ground on Wednesday after a tweet he made about Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye’s conviction drew condemnation from human rights groups across the board.
His tweet - “I trust that JubJub’s supporters gave him a jar of Vaseline to take to prison” - has widely been interpreted to be a joking reference to the prevalence of rape in SA’s prisons.
Polela did not respond to attempts by the Cape Argus to get in contact with him on Wednesday, nor was Hawks boss General Anwa Dramat available for comment.
On his Twitter feed, however, Polela defended his statement by suggesting that it was tweeted in a personal capacity.
This drew the scorn of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which replied to the tweet by saying that “personal views” lay at the root of the Department of Correctional Service’s complacency when it came to rape in prisons.
“He is not just any person, he is the spokesman for a specialised crime fighting unit in the SAPS… Owing to his position in the public eye, his personal view becomes dangerously intertwined with his views as spokesman for the Hawks.
“We condemn it in the strongest terms and I find it quite frightening that a senior official in SAPS can hold this view and make it public, regardless of whether it is in a personal capacity,” said Johan Kruger, director of the centre.
Kruger said that Polela’s comments were all the more concerning in light of two reports that have recently been made public.
The 2011/12 Annual Report of the National Prosecuting Authority showed that only 6.9 percent of sexual offences reported to SAPS had resulted in convictions.
Furthermore, a recent report by the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services – a government appointed oversight agency – highlighted the dismal state of affairs for inmates in SA’s prisons.
The report said that the department owed R4.5 million to former inmates for “damages” related to rape.
Emily Keehn, prisons expert at the Sonke Gender Justice Network, said it was common knowledge that rape occurs in prisons: “Yet, the department is doing very little to address this. What’s so concerning about this tweet is that it reflects a general acceptance that this is a ‘normal’ and justified state of affairs. Rape is rape, no matter who the victim is… ”
“That the statement came from a senior member in SAPS is shocking. Essentially it endorses a sexual crime, and is at odds with the police’s stated compliance with upholding the constitution through crime prevention.”
Sonke was one of nine organisations to sign a statement condemning the tweet and asking Polela to publicly retract the statement on Wednesday afternoon.
Golden Miles Bhudu, of the SA Prisoners’ Organisation for Human Rights, called for Polela to resign as spokesman for the Hawks: “The statement is outrageous and could well encourage rapists in prison to target Jub Jub, in an attempt to become headline grabbers themselves.”
Tired of hearing promises
A month ago, McIntosh Polela was at the centre of another controversy when the mother of his children phoned in to a live radio interview and accused him of being disingenuous.
Polela was being interviewed by 702 and 567 CapeTalk’s Talk At Nine host Eusebius McKaiser, who asked him to comment on why he had failed to pay child maintenance over a number of months this year for his two children.
A woman, known only as Mpho and believed to be the mother of the two children, phoned in.
Polela said he was intending to pay up, to which Mpho replied: “You say that every time!”
It’s alleged that Polela attracted Mpho’s scorn after he tweeted about buying a new Jeep.
The woman reported the matter to media outlets and to the DA in an attempt to put pressure on Polela.
After Jackie Selebi’s release on medical parole in July, Polela tweeted: “Shaik was ‘sent home to die’. Now Selebi. In a few years we shall have an army of politically connected zombies roaming our golf courses!”
Polela has also drawn criticism for his statement that “everyone knows [Czech fugitive Radovan] Krejcir is a criminal”.
Krejcir has not been found guilty of crime by an SA court.