Judge concerned about alleged mismanagement of inmates from Pollsmoor Prison

Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison in Tokai. Photographer: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison in Tokai. Photographer: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 22, 2024


Cape Town - The alleged mismanagement of inmates from Pollsmoor Prison attending high-profile trials took centre stage at the Western Cape High Court amid an enquiry called by Judge Robert Henney last week.

This follows delays caused at the mammoth underworld trial of alleged kingpin Nafiz Modack and several others who are being held at Pollsmoor and Goodwood Prisons for the duration of the trial.

In recent month the medical assessments, lack of food and the violation of court orders to allow the accused to consult with their legal representatives are just some of the issues that have been raised.

Henney subsequently called an official from the Department of Correctional Services to take the stand at the High Court last week to testify under oath why an inmate had not been brought to trial despite a warrant instructing officials to do so.

This followed the absence of Modack’s co-accused Moegamat Toufeek Brown, who is at Pollsmoor, on Tuesday, 11 June, as proceedings were set to get underway. It was revealed that a doctor's letter had been sent to the court indicating that Brown was not well.

The next day, however, Henney questioned why Brown was again absent when no information was given as to the reasons .

State prosecutor Greg Wolmarans told the court that he had been informed by DCS that Brown had refused to come to court which was denied by Brown who stated through his lawyer, advocate Nazeer Parkar, that he had been waiting to be taken to the hospital for further tests.

He reported that his client, who appeared to be ill on several occasions throughout the trial, had “blacked out” and was suffering from high blood pressure and hypertension.

During the enquiry by Henney, Rudi Du Plooy from Pollsmoor took the stand and told the court that Brown had lied and that he personally went to his prison cell to collect him for court when he was told by Brown that he was not attending the trial.

Probed further by Henney the official admitted that he did not question Brown further on his reasons. Henney lambasted both Du Plooy and Brown for not taking the matter further saying an entire day of the trial had been wasted.

During the enquiry another co-accused, Amaal Jantjies, was seen keeling over in pain and in an explanation by her legal representative it was revealed that she had sought medical assistance but the medication provided to her made no difference to her state.

The State prosecutors tried to arrange a visit to a district surgeon on the day but this was not possible and Jantjies was taken away and did not attend court for the rest of the day.

While the outcome of the inquiry was inconclusive Henney did not mince his words when he highlighted the attitude displayed by Du Plooy on the stand.

“From the manner in which the Department of Correctional Services has conducted itself in this trial…does not inspire confidence. The question of access to lawyers, that was an issue. Maybe it is time the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons needs to look at what is happening. Because they paint a rosy picture with the judiciary and the public saying we got all these facilities but really they don’t really take their jobs very seriously.”

Henney said while Brown had a duty to tell the official the reasons he was not coming to court the official had failed in his duties to properly ascertain the reasons.

He further noted that Jantjies and others had been ill but attended trial while ill.

He told the accused that should they not feel well they should attend court where they will be assisted.

“The best assistance you can get if you are sick [is to] come to court and the judge will assist you as far as possible.

It was also revealed by Wolmarans that another accused, Jannick Adonis, had informed authorities that he had not been given any food during the trial and on his return to the prison he was told there was no food left.

“The officials have informed me that that is not an idle complaint. That the officials at the prison are trying to address it. I hope Mr Jannick Adonis is not sitting here with a hungry stomach.

Henney reminded the court that the rights of prisoners must be respected.

The Department of Correctional Services was contacted for comment, but has not done so at the time of going to print.

Weekend Argus