Prisoners rights group calls for specialised court for arrested looters
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DURBAN - ACCORDING to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, there was no backlog of cases due to the arrests arising out of the recent unrest, this was while the number of remand detainees stood at 1 813.
The department was responding to a call made by the SA Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (Sapohr) for the immediate establishment of specialised courts, similar to those created during the 2010 Fifa World Cup, in order to clear the backlog.
Sapohr spokesperson Golden Miles Bhudu said there was a huge backlog in KZN and Gauteng, stemming from the mass arrests and incarceration of those who were allegedly involved in the looting.
Department of Justice and Constitutional Development spokesperson Steve Mahlangu said the head of the judiciary within a court would determine, in consultation with the other role-players, whether these measures were necessary.
“There is currently no backlog of cases due to the arrests arising out of the recent unrest. All accused persons have appeared in court.”
He added that the directions issued under adjusted alert level 4 by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola on July 16 made provision for matters stemming from unrest to be placed on a priority roll. He added that the directions also made provision for dedicated courts where necessary or expedient.
Department of Correctional Services (DCS) spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said the number of remand detainees as a result of the recent unrest was 1 813. He said most of them were in Gauteng province (1 355) and KwaZulu-Natal (458).
“The department is able to manage these numbers, although remandees are brought in big numbers,” Nxumalo said. He added that there was a demand to create more isolation sections as newly admitted people could not be taken into the general inmate population until they were cleared.
“Such a measure is designed to protect inmates and staff and assist those who could have Covid-19 but are not yet showing any symptoms,” he said.
Nxumalo added that the DCS has been experiencing an increase in new Covid-19 infections.
“The week of July 18-25 registered a total of 588 new cases (252 officials and 336 inmates). This is the highest number of infections in a week ever since we have been at war with Covid-19,” he said.
He added that they had amplified prevention measures in facilities by means of a rigorous screening process and stressing adherence to infection prevention control.
“Our standard operating procedures were long ago adjusted in order to enable the department to withstand any type of pressure exerted by Covid-19,” Nxumalo said.
He added that the recovery rate was at 91.43%, which he said demonstrated the department’s strength in the type of care it provided to inmates and officials.
He said the vaccine roll-out was also progressing smoothly, with a total of 27 971. Of these, officials numbered 6 482.