St Alban’s warders’ mass torture and assault went unreported until one prisoner decided he’d had enough
SEEKING JUSTICE: Lawyer Egon Oswald, left, and former prisoner Bradley McCallum.
ma se p***, hardloop uit!’ “ (You f******, come running out!) He hit me on the arm with his baton. Then he hit me on the head. All the time, he was shouting ‘Tronk naaier, tronk bitch!’ (Jail f*****, jail bitch), grabbing my shirt and kicking me. “We were forced to run naked down the corridor through a tunnel of warders who hit us while we were running and sprayed us with water. They were swearing and screaming: ‘Today you’re going the prisoners were p****** and s****** on themselves and on each other. “Blood was literally running down those prison walls.” Then the inmates were told to run into their cell. In the ensuing chaos, they fell over each other, slipped and tripped on the floor which was covered in water, urine, faeces and blood. “There were people with Aids, TB, diabetes, sick people, old people. The warders didn’t care,” McCallum said. Initially Oswald found Mc, Callum’s story hard to believe. But when complaints flooded in, he realised it was true and not an isolated incident. “Every one of these guys suffered injuries. They had bruises, blunt-force contusions, dog-bites, broken limbs; they’d been electrocuted and were psychologically traumatised.” McCallum, for one, still carries scars. After the beatings, he had a dislocated jaw, head wounds, a damaged arm and flashbacks, and lost his teeth. He said the inmates were denied medical help for a month. In desperation, they attempted to treat themselves by burning toilet paper and covering their wounds with sand and ash. Concerned about HIV infection from other inmates’ bodily fluids, McCallum was also denied HIV testing and other basic privileges like phone, exercise, access to legal representation and his family . Yet when he complained to the authorities and anyone else he thought might listen, no disciplinary action was taken against the perpetrators and no criminal sanction followed. After all oversight mechanisms failed and the State claimed McCallum had not made his statutory demand within a stipulated six-month period, Oswald approached the UNHRC on his behalf. At the UNHRC’s 100th sitting, SA was found to have violated its obligations in terms of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. SA had also flouted the provisions of its own constitution, violated the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Robben Island Guidelines. The SA Human Rights Commission’s Judith Cohen said: “This is a peremptory norm of international law that binds all states, whether they’ve signed the international instruments or not.” SA was instructed to investigate McCallum’s claims, prosecute those responsible and provide a remedy and information about measures taken within 180 days. In October 2011, Correctional Services finally issued a media statement but ignored the UNHRC’s request to publish its findings. The following month, driven by what he describes as “a total antipathy to the abuse of power”, Oswald brought a successful High Court application compelling discovery of all documents relating to inmates’ complaints. Correctional Services spokesman Sonwabo Mbananga said: “The alleged incident happened before the minister’s appointment. When she first became aware of the matter in September last year, she immediately instructed the department to re-open an investigation into the matter. “Stern action will be taken if the incident is confirmed and there were human rights violations by our officials. noted a “disconcerting trend” of deaths implicating officials who employed “unnecessary force in instances where the inmate posed little or no threat to safety”. The report also noted a reduction in the number of unnatural deaths from 55 in 2009/210 to 48 in 2010/11 – an official or officials were implicated in eight of these deaths. Since neither DCS nor JICS provide torture statistics in their annual reports, it’s difficult to assess its prevalence in SA’s 241 jails. Moreover, torture is often unreported. “People in prison don’t stand up for their rights; they don’t even know they have rights,” McCallum noted. Though prison officials are supposed to use “minimum force” to quell violence, the use of electric-shock belts, stunshields, stun-batons and legirons appears widespread. “The use of this equipment runs contrary to international norms and standards and has no place in modern-day correctional institutions,” the Institute for Security Studies’ Noel Stott told the parliamentary portfolio committee on Correctional Services last year. Perhaps the fact St Alban’s warders believed they could assault and torture inmates with impunity is understandable – SA has no legislation criminalising torture even though it’s outlawed by the constitution. “At the moment, if perpetrators are brought before a criminal court they’ll be charged with a common law crime like assault, culpable homicide or murder,” Cohen explained. “SA has failed to enact any legislation outlawing torture as required in terms of its international obligations. The local representative of the Geneva-based Association for the Prevention of Torture, Amanda Dissel, believes that “a crime of torture would assist the authorities to recognise acts of torture and initiate proper investigations of torture with the diligence, impartiality and competence required by international law”. “How the St Alban’s case happened and how we prevent it happening in the future is what matters,” said Cohen. “This isn’t just about McCallum, it’s about what went wrong. There’s a high probability this isn’t an isolated case, there are more McCallums out there and there’ll be more in the future…” ● Carolyn Raphaely, the current Webber Wentzel legal journalist of the year is a member of the , Wits Justice Project which investigates miscarriages of justice.

March 3



Raped inmate sues prison service


HEN Bradley McCallum, a tattooed and toothless inmate of Port Elizabeth’s St Alban’s prison, was beaten and raped with a baton by a warder , no one could have predicted the propensity of the slightly built prisoner to fight back. “I decided enough is enough,” he recalled. “I thought: ‘I’m going to stand up for myself as a prisoner and a human being. I don’t care what happens as long as people know how I’ve been treated.’ “ McCallum, 32, didn’t suffer alone. His rape was part of a prison-wide orgy of mass-beatings, assault and torture by about 50 warders in retribution for the murder of fellow-warder Babini Nqakula – a relative of then-minister of safety and security Charles Nqakula, husband of Minister of Correctional Services Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. “ warder shoved a baton up A my anus and said: ‘Where’s your knife? You can put it in your bank account, we’ll take it out with interest,’ “ McCallum said. “When I tried to crawl away he trampled on my back , forcing me to lie face-down on the floor. I felt like trash…” Now Egon Oswald, a lawyer operating a one-man practice from an old house in Port Elizabeth, is suing the Minister of Correctional Services for damages on behalf of McCallum and 230 other prisoners. It is probably the largest damages claim yet instituted against the Department of Correctional Services (DCS). Hopefully this will draw at, tention to the excessive use of violence by officials in SA prisons. Surprisingly after McCal, lum lodged a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in Geneva and won his 2010 case, Bradley McCallum vs SA, no one seemed to notice or even care, least of all SA, which ignored six requests by the UN to respond to McCallum’s allegations. “This matter is by no means over,” said Oswald, a quietly spoken former commercial lawyer who was voted Human Rights Lawyer of the year by the Cape Law Society in 2011. “It’s a matter of principle. The rule of law must be upheld and public officials held accountable.” Released on parole in 2010, McCallum still recalls the July 2005 attacks in detail: “I was lying on my bed on a Sunday morning when I heard Warder P shouting: ‘Julle naiers, julle

Dynamic musical brings history of bus boycott and vibrant townships to life
A CLASSICAL, jazzy and vibrant musical production with a thrilling and undeniably talented all-star cast. This is how the creators of Azikhwelwa have sought to reincarnate an integral part of SA’s history . Centred on the January 1957 Alexandra bus boycotts, Azikhwelwa (“We will not ride”) tells the heart-warming and captivating tale of how the township residents fought the draconian apartheid laws and the penny increase in bus fares. It captures the dialogue and debate between the political leaders as well as the lives led by individuals, friends and families caught in the milieu of poverty, hope and courage. The demonstrations were held against the Public Utility Transport Corporation (Putco) after fares became unaffordable for commuters in the township. Although the boycott was primarily undertaken by resident from Alexandra, the protests spread to Sophiatown and Newclare. In Pretoria, the protest covered the Lady Selborne district, as well as other areas, including Atteridgeville, Mamelodi and Ga-Rankuwa. After two weeks, commuters of Moroka-Jabavu in the southwest also joined the protest. The protests ended in June that year after the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce succumbed to the pressure of the many protesters. It has been a long and fulfilling journey for the musical production’s writer and associate producer, Reshoketswe “Shoki” Maredi. She spent six months doing extensive research and compiling facts about why people refused bus services. “I spoke to people who were teenagers at the time and also based my research largely on one of Dan Mokonyane’s books. “There are other notable political leaders and Struggle veterans that I had to consult. It was not an easy process,” says Maredi. Maredi, who was born in Alexandra, says it was vital that the play was written by someone who knew the dynamic culture of the township. “I was there when the bucket system was still in use, when there were no streets. “I’ve had numerous encounters with various characters in my township, from the ordinary guy in the street to a tsotsi and a woman known by everyone. I miss those days.” The musical production was launched in 2007 for an event earmarked to celebrate Alexandra, she says. However it was not fully developed to what it is today and was shelved. Producer Pascal Damoyi says: “Back then Shoki was not happy about taking the theatre production further. “I guess it was not the right time or place. “Therefore it took some time to convince her to re-introduce the play .” Damoyi adds that the cast of Azikhwelwa are the same people who were cast in 2007. “We just had to tweak it here and there and will be doing so. We are always looking to improve it.” Damoyi and Maredi say the musical production will reach greater heights in the weeks to come. “With Alexandra celebrating its centenary this year, this production couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s our way of preserving the country’s rich history . “We also hope to take it to other avenues or provinces – time and money permitting.” Azikhwelwa, to be staged at the Victory Theatre in Orange Grove, features seasoned actors such as former Generations star Seputla Sebogodi, singer and actress Lesego Motsepe, e.tv Rhythm City’s Mpho Molepo and theatre newcomer Phumla Siyobi. The production is directed by Lindani Nkosi and music director Glen Mafoko adds a fusion of music through a live band. Azikhwelwa runs until March 11 before moving to the State Theatre in Pretoria. ● Tickets at Computicket or the Victory Theatre box office from R80 to R150. Shows are from Tuesday to Sunday .

People were terrified… blood was running down the walls
to die!’ Then they forced us to lie on the wet floor in a long human chain – about 70 prisoners from my section. Each inmate had their nose in the arse of the person in front of them. If you turned to look up, they kicked you in the face with an army boot. There were also female warders who walked over us, kicked us in our genitals and mocked us about our private parts. And there were dogs. “People were terrified. The warders beat us with batons, shock-boards, broomsticks, pool-cues and pick-axe handles. “As a result of the electricshock shields and the terror,

It’s a matter of principle. The rule of law must be upheld
“At that point, the department will start looking at remedies. A police investigation has also been undertaken.” Meantime, as Cohen points out, SA is not notching up a good reporting record at international level. For example, SA’s report to the Committee Against Torture has been outstanding since 2009: “The fact that SA was asked to respond to the UN and repeatedly ignored the requests is indicative of how seriously SA regards its international obligations.” What’s more, the 2010/11 Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) report

Prisoner pins his hopes on weighty bid for a retrial
LAST week, a delegation of relatives and friends of a prisoner serving a life sentence at Joburg’s Medium B prison handed over a thick document to Tebogo Kekana, an “intake investigator” at the Public Protector’s office in Pretoria. “I do the initial vetting to see whether the cases handed in qualify for full investigation by the Public Protector,” said Kekana yesterday, “and I certainly do remember that particular document. It was, you might say rather voluminous.” , The document is titled: “Why I, Farouk Meyer escaped from prison? , Because certain government officials are turning a blind eye to corruption.” Meyer, 36, was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 1999 for killing three men in a West Rand nightclub, Club 12 Play . But, when Meyer escaped from Vereeniging’s Groenpunt Prison in 2009, he did not run and hide. Instead, he arranged to hand himself over to authorities in front of the media. Meyer’s hope was that his public and voluntary handing-over of himself would “encourage” the authorities to re-open his case. But, although the senior police officers and Justice Department and National Prosecuting Authority officials who came to his handing-over promised an investigation, nothing happened. While admitting to having fired two shots in self-defence – which, according to him, killed one man and injured another – Meyer has remained adamant that he was unjustly convicted of murdering three men, and that a court should consider his “fresh evidence”. Meyer alleged that the investigating officer and a police ballistics expert “tampered with the chain of evidence” and the verdict was therefore based on “poisoned” evidence. Meyer argued in the 600-page document that some of the bullets produced at his trial were not fired by him but were later taken from his weapon, which he had surrendered to the police immediately after incident, or from another weapon. In August last year, his family asked for help from Cape Town forensic expert David Klatzow. Klatzow wrote an affidavit stating that, inexplicably there were two, contradic, tory reports of the same post-mortem. He said the weapon tested by the police lab in connection with the shootings had been of a different calibre to the weapon handed in by Meyer. In Klatzow’s view, “the minister of justice needs to re-open the case and review it”. In the document handed in on his behalf last week, Meyer said he was aware that the Public Protector was not empowered to investigate decisions of the courts. However, she could investigate “any conduct… in any sphere of government that is alleged or suspected to be improper,” and that his right to a fair trial had been tainted by improper evidence. ● Gordin is from the Wits Justice Project, which investigates alleged miscarriages of justice.

‘Ban cash sales of copper to tackle theft’
THE CAPE Chamber of Commerce and Industry wants the government to ban cash payments for scrap copper in a bid to curb copper theft. The appeal comes after the National Council of Provinces was told this week that copper theft cost the country R5 billion a year in losses and indirect costs. Chamber president Michael Bagraim said the UK had recently introduced measures to halt all cash payments for scrap copper. He said that if payments were made by cheque or into bank accounts, there would be a paper trail to follow and it would be easier to gather evidence against scrap dealers who bought stolen copper. “If we can take the cash out of the system, it will become very much more difficult for thieves and vandals to dispose of their stolen copper. We would have to go all the way because a great deal of stolen copper is laundered in small amounts through bucket shops. “Taking the cash out of the trade in scrap copper will not create any difficulties for legitimate dealers, but it would pose big problems for thieves… because it is a quick way to get cash for drugs or other purposes,” Bagraim said. Another advantage of cashless copper trading was that it would force small scrap dealers to open bank accounts and enter the formal business world. The chamber’s suggestion got a mixed reaction from Cape Town’s scrap dealers. George Cannon, owner of Cannon Scrap Metal Dealers in Diep River, said: “It’s impossible. There’s not a chance of that working. Not everyone’s got bank accounts, and the ones who have bank accounts won’t steal copper. “We’ve already got a system in place. We photostat IDs, we keep the product for seven days before it’s sold, and we have a police register with the names and addresses of everyone who sells glass, copper, aluminium and lead,” Cannon said. Waleed Arend, manager of Motorem Corp in Parow, supported the chamber. “It’s a good suggestion. Safety is the main thing. Carried cash is always unsafe.”
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