‘We paid our jailers bribes for luxuries’

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Pretoria Central Prison

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Kgosi Mampuru Central Correctional Centre in Pretoria. File photo: Etienne Creux

Pretoria - Correctional Services has launched an investigation of senior warders at Kgosi Mampuru Prison after fresh bribery allegations.

While officials are investigating how the Waterkloof two – Frikkie du Preez and Christoff Becker – could have access to cellphones and other luxuries in jail, an inmate has claimed two officials apparently solicited bribes from inmates, offering them protection, information and a “lavish lifestyle”.

The Pretoria News has in its possession two bank deposit slips made out to two management officials of the Kgosi Mampuru jail, previously known as Pretoria Central Prison, from prisoners. The inmates – available at any time of the day on a cellphone although that is disallowed – said they were tired of corrupt officials extorting exorbitant amounts of money from them.

Allegations of prison warders accepting bribes are not new, but inmates say the situation has spiralled out of control.

Correctional Services spokesman Manelisi Wolela confirmed the two officials named by the inmates were in the prison’s management.

An investigation was under way to determine if the bank details provided by the Pretoria News matched its records of the officials, “to assist in the verification of all facts, after which action will be taken”.

Inmate Brian (not his real name) alleges he has paid well over R5 000 to warders since last August.

“They offer you protection, nice food, information on searches, anything you might need, for a small amount. But once you pay them they start taking advantage and look for any excuse to get money from you,” Brian said.

Most payments were made in cash, leaving no trail, he said.

In October, Brian and another inmate, Warren (also not his real name), decided to expose those accepting bribes. They had their families pay the so-called bribes into the bank accounts of the two top officials. An amount of R500 was paid into an Absa account in October by Brian’s relatives after the warder informed him of a search and offered to keep his cellphone and electronic tablet safe.

“I gave him R400 through a middleman. After the search he wanted more money to get the stuff back, so I paid a further R500 into his account. Still this was not enough. He asked for more money to pay another person who had assisted in safekeeping my items,” Brian said.

In November, R600 was paid into a Standard Bank account. Despite payment of more than R1 000, the items had not been returned.

Warren had bank deposits made in a desperate attempt not to be transferred to another prison far from his family. “They would threaten to transfer us all the time. I had to pay them not to do that. My wife and family are suffering. That is taking bread from my children.”

The two inmates claim they tried to report the incident to the top management and police, but nothing happened. Wolela said: “We view the claims seriously.”

The management was not aware of complaints.

“Perhaps the investigation will reveal if anyone had suppressed it.”

More than 3 000 correctional officials had been charged with misconduct and corruption in 2012/13 financial year, Correctional Services has said.

A total of 251 officials were dismissed and demoted while 2 850 officials were subjected to misconduct and disciplinary proceedings, Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said in a statement on Monday.

He vowed to root out corruption in his department.

“As the department we will fight fraud and corruption with vigour. We will root out criminal behaviour amongst those who taint our standing, and reputation in society.”

Between April and December of 2013, 28 officials were dismissed, demoted or suspended for offences related to only fraud and corruption.

“In August, Francis Moikutlwi Kwela, 39, who was employed at the department was jailed for five years after he was dismissed for fraud amounting to R1 823 393,10.”

Ndebele said another official involved was to stand trial in the same case and the matter had been handed over to the Asset Forfeiture Unit for recovery.

valeska.abreu@inl.co.za

Pretoria News, Sapa


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