‘Freed’ – but still be­hind bars

Warders defy court or­der, refuse to re­lease jailed youths

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ZELDA VEN­TER and Sapa

COR­REC­TIONAL Ser­vices has ig­nored two court or­ders to re­lease two of the four Waterk­loof youths jailed for 12 years for the mur­der of a home­less man in a Pre­to­ria park in 2001.

Even a high court judge’s threat to send two se­nior of­fi­cials from Zon­der­wa­ter prison to jail for a month has failed to un­lock prison doors.

Now the DA is say­ing Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices is keep­ing the men in prison be­cause their re­lease, de­spite the court or­ders, would be un­law­ful.

The youths, Gert van Schalk­wyk and Reinach Tiedt, have served three years of their 12- year sen­tences. They were due to be re­leased and placed un­der house ar­rest on Thurs­day.

Bizarrely, it was Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices which first ap­proached the Re­gional Court to com­mute the rest of the pair’s sen­tences into cor­rec­tional su­per­vi­sion be­cause they were such model pris­on­ers.

The pa­role board rec­om­mended that they serve the rest of their sen­tences un­der house ar­rest. On Thurs­day the Pre­to­ria Re­gional Court agreed to this, and or­dered the pair to do com­mu­nity ser­vice at week­ends.

Later that day this or­der was served on the of­fi­cials at Zon­der­wa­ter and the pair were tech­ni­cally re­leased. They were given all their be­long­ings and driven to the gate of the prison – but were then called back and locked up again.

So their fam­i­lies ap­proached the North Gaut­eng High Court yes­ter­day, say­ing the Re­gional Court’s or­der had been ig­nored by prison of­fi­cials.

When Judge Eben Jor­daan heard their sub­mis­sion, he re­marked: “I thought that I had seen every­thing in my old day. But it clearly ap­pears that I have not.”

There was more to come.

Judge Jor­daan then is­sued an ur­gent court or­der for the im­me­di­ate re­lease of the two. And he com­mit­ted two se­nior of­fi­cials of Zon­der­wa­ter to a month in jail for ig­nor­ing the Re­gional Court or­der. He said the of­fi­cials had to come to court on Jan­uary 24 and ex­plain why they should not be jailed.

He also or­dered that the head of Cul­li­nan Po­lice Sta­tion as­sist the le­gal team should the au­thor­i­ties not want to re­lease the pair.

The fam­i­lies’ lawyer, Jenny Brew­ers, and Cul­li­nan po­lice, then set off for the prison. But Brew­ers was not hope­ful. She told the wait­ing me­dia that she had been in­formed that the pris­on­ers had been locked up by 1.30pm yes­ter­day and that no­body would be al­lowed in­side.

Later Reinach’s fa­ther Chris Tiedt re­ceived a call from the lawyer, say­ing that she and the po­lice could not even get through the gate, let alone get to where the two young men were be­ing held.

“They say they won’t be com­ing out to­day. But we will re­turn to court on Mon­day to hold them ( Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices) fur­ther in con­tempt,” said Reinach’s fa­ther. Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices was not present in court yes­ter­day. When phoned from court by the pair’s lawyer, an of­fi­cial said the mat­ter was never prop­erly served on them.

Two of­fi­cials told jour­nal­ists wait­ing out­side the prison gates yes­ter­day: “You will wait here un­til to­mor­row. They will not come out.”

Van Schalk­wyk and Tiedt’s ad­vo­cate, Jaap Cil­liers, SC, said the con­duct of the of­fi­cials was “shock­ing”.

But DA MP James Selfe yes­ter­day said the de­ci­sion to re­lease the two and place them un­der house ar­rest was un­law­ful.

“In terms of a pre­vi­ous court de­ci­sion, con­ver­sions of sen­tences can only oc­cur if an in­mate has less than

five years re­main­ing of his or her sen­tence,” Selfe said.

The two men still have nine years to serve.

“Both the rec­om­men­da­tion of the pa­role board and the de­ci­sion of the Pre­to­ria Re­gional Court Court were there­fore wrong and should be set aside,” Selfe said.

Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices spokesman Zacharia Modise said: “The depart­ment will study the rul­ing, and in due course we will let our de­ci­sion on it be known.”

Selfe said he had spo­ken to depart­ment of­fi­cials, who as­sured him its le­gal ad­vis­ers were study­ing the court’s judg­ment with a view to ap­peal it.

“Those board mem­bers who voted for the de­ci­sion ought to be held per­son­ally li­able for the le­gal costs of the ap­peal,” he said.

Selfe said the other two mem­bers of the “Waterk­loof Four” – Christoff Bekker and Frikkie du Preez – also needed their sen­tences con­verted, if the rul­ing were to go through.

“It’s a le­gal mess.”

DE­CEM­BER 17 2011

Reinach Tiedt

Gert van Schalk­wyk

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