Man (79) ‘lost in jail’ for 10 years

2009-03-31 00:00

HIGH Court Judge Kevin Swain said yesterday it is appalling that a Newcastle man of 79 has languished in prison for nearly 10 years and been denied his right of appeal because Correctional Services had no record of him.

Swain said this during the successful appeal of Lenford Ndoda Mtolo in the high court in Pietermaritzburg. He said Mtolo has unjustifiably been sitting in jail for nearly 10 years and no one knew where he was.

Mtolo is now a grizzled, hard-of-hearing prison veteran.

A court official said there are many similar cases due to inefficient record keeping.

Mtolo was convicted in 1999 of raping an 11-year-old girl, who, it later emerged, accused another man of raping her. In that trial she gave almost identical evidence to her testimony against Mtolo.

Swain said her evidence was questionable and the medical evidence did not establish clearly that a rape had occurred. He and Judge Anton van Zyl set aside Mtolo’s conviction and sentence after state counsel Advocate Auret van Heerden said that if one read the complainant’s evidence in both cases carefully, it was clear her testimony was not always coherent. Van Heerden conceded that Mtolo’s appeal should succeed.

Van Heerden, who vainly made many enquiries to try to find prison records of Mtolo, said both the local and Pretoria head office of Correctional Services denied knowing about him, although he was convicted in 1999 and has been in jail ever since.

Van Heerden said it was assumed Mtolo had died in jail and it surprised everyone when he arrived in court earlier this year.

Swain ordered the director of public prosecutions to investigate who was responsible for the injustice. He ordered Mtolo’s release within 24 hours and for him to be given bus fare home.

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