‘We will go back to our prison cells’

Eppa de­mands re­lease of cor­rup­tion re­port

Cape Argus - - FRONT PAGE - MWANGI GITHAHU [email protected]

EX-PO­LIT­I­CAL pris­on­ers from Robben Is­land are threat­en­ing to re­turn and chain them­selves to their for­mer cells un­less their de­mand for the re­lease of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port into cor­rup­tion by the man­age­ment of the fa­mous jail, now a mu­seum, are met.

The Ex-Po­lit­i­cal Pris­on­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (Eppa) said they had a copy of the re­port which was full of rec­om­men­da­tions and dis­ci­plinary ac­tion to be taken against mem­bers of the Robben Is­land Mu­seum (RIM) board and man­age­ment. Eppa re­ceived a copy of the re­port from the Min­is­ter of Sport, Arts and Cul­ture, Nathi Mthethwa, in July, but it was put un­der an in­def­i­nite em­bargo by the min­is­ter.

In a let­ter to the for­mer pris­on­ers dated July 15, the min­is­ter wrote: “The re­port that is en­closed with this let­ter is be­ing is­sued for your in­for­ma­tion only and may not be shared/dis­trib­uted to unau­tho­rised per­sons (those out­side Eppa) with­out the depart­ment’s writ­ten con­sent.”

Eppa sec­re­tary-gen­eral Mpho Masemola said they were alarmed by how long it had taken for the re­port to be re­leased and they were wor­ried that as the year drew to a close, the is­sue would be for­got­ten. The re­port is the re­sult of an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion, nepo­tism and poor gov­er­nance at the RIM.

“We’ve been wait­ing for 25 years for all our griev­ances to be ad­dressed. If they do not do this, we will re­turn to the is­land and lock our­selves up there in protest,” said Masemola.

He said: “The RIM board had a spe­cial board meet­ing on Oc­to­ber25 at the Nel­son Man­dela Gate­way to dis­cuss the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­me­dial ac­tion against those im­pli­cated in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port, in­sti­tut­ing dis­ci­plinary mea­sures against those im­pli­cated, restruc­tur­ing of all de­part­ments and re­la­tions with Eppa and cor­rect­ing all wrongs of the past laid by Eppa against RIM”.

Eppa is par­tic­u­larly keen on the dis­missal of the of­fi­cials named in the re­port and said that the of­fi­cials, by their ac­tions, had brought the mu­seum into dis­re­pute.

“We are very con­cerned about the si­lence from the RIM board and the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Depart­ment about the out­come of the meet­ing. Dis­ci­plinary ac­tions should have been an­nounced af­ter the meet­ing, which took two days. Th­ese mat­ters should not be hid­den from the pub­lic.”

The mu­seum’s spokesper­son, Moron­goa Ram­aboa, said: “The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was in­sti­tuted by the Depart­ment of Sports, Arts and Cul­ture. Please con­tact the min­istry di­rectly for an of­fi­cial re­sponse on all mat­ters per­tain­ing to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

In the let­ter sent to Eppa, Min­is­ter Mthethwa said min­istry of­fi­cials had called Eppa to a meet­ing to dis­cuss the is­sue, but Eppa had de­clined the meet­ing re­quest, in­sist­ing that all they wanted was for the min­is­ter to re­lease the re­port pub­licly.

Masemola also made ref­er­ence to an in­ci­dent ear­lier this year when RIM com­mis­sioned a new ferry from Sin­ga­pore, which has al­legedly ended up in­cur­ring costs of more than R100mil­lion and failed two SA Mar­itime Safety Au­thor­ity in­spec­tions.

He also claimed that Eppa mem­bers had been ex­cluded as BEE part­ners by what he termed “racists in the dock­yard mafia” and said “the ex-po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers fought for hu­man dig­nity and against the ex­clu­sion of black peo­ple from the main­stream econ­omy”.

RIM was es­tab­lished in 1997. The is­land was de­clared a world her­itage site by Unesco in 1999. Be­tween the 17th and 20th cen­turies, Robben Is­land served as a place of ban­ish­ment, iso­la­tion and im­pris­on­ment.

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