Inmate seeks to go back to Westville

2013-11-14 00:00

JUDGMENT has been reserved in an application by a former Westville prison inmate to intervene in his transfer to a maximum security prison in Kokstad over a year ago.

Andre Venter was sentenced to 12 years and four months in jail in 2007 for attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

He claims his constitutional rights were violated after he was accused of possessing a bag containing knives and a cellphone, which were seized in Westville prison in November last year.

He denies possessing them and maintains he was summarily “punished” for alleged wrongdoing without being given a chance to defend himself.

He says all his letters to the Correctional Services Department objecting to his transfer were ignored.

He wants the high court to order that he be transferred to another prison where he can have contact with his family, and to restore the privileges he lost when he was sent to the maximum security jail.

He and another prisoner, Kerwin Bruce, were transferred to Ebongweni at Kokstad on December 2 last year.

According to prison authorities, both were members of the “26” gang at Westville.

Venter says to date he has not been charged with any wrongdoing and has not been given a chance to defend himself against the allegations that he possessed the knives and cellphone in question, and was plotting to escape. He denies this.

He says he gave two other inmates — “Siya” and “Kerwin” — a bag at their request, but didn’t ask what they wanted it for.

Venter says he later saw the two with knives and saw them taking photographs with an illegal cellphone.

The inmates told him the knives were smuggled in by a warder.

According to Venter, he didn’t want to become involved and didn’t report the matter to the prison authorities for fear of retribution by the gang members.

When his bag was recovered during a search, he denied knowledge of the knives and cellphone it contained and pointed out the culprits.

In his affidavit, KZN assistant director of correctional services Brian Mhlongo said it was amid fears that gang violence would erupt at Westville prison that the decision was taken to transfer Venter for his safety and to safeguard the facility.

Judge Jerome Mnguni reserved judgment in the case.

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