‘Freed’ – but still behind bars
Warders defy court order, refuse to release jailed youths
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.”
Gert van Schalkwyk