Zonderwater Prison should be praised - dad
Pretoria - Zonderwater Prison should be praised and given credit for the good work it has done, the stepfather of one of the so-called "Waterkloof Four" said on Monday.
Speaking hours after his stepson Gert van Schalkwyk was released into house arrest, Jimmy Stonehouse said: "I want to give credit to the Zonderwater Prison."
Van Schalkwyk was released earlier on Monday, together with Reinach Tiedt, following a court wrangle over the decision by the Zonderwater parole board to commute their 12-year jail terms to house arrest. They can apply for parole at a later stage.
Schalkwyk and Tiedt were imprisoned along with Christoff Becker and Frikkie du Preez in 2008 for killing a homeless man and assaulting another at a park in Pretoria in 2001.
Bekker and Du Preez, serving their sentences in Pretoria Central, had not been released and there was no word as to whether they would be.
"They are in different prisons. They have to be evaluated individually," said Stonehouse.
The release of the two had drawn widespread criticism. Initially the correctional services department ignored two court orders forcing it to abide by the parole board's decision to commute their sentences.
Announcing on Monday morning that the department would abide by the orders, spokesperson Zacharia Modise said: "We are not happy with the court order. We want to challenge this."
In a statement released on Monday, the department said it was immediately complying with the court orders by placing Tiedt and Van Schalkwyk on correctional supervision from Monday.
This was barely hours before another application was about to be lodged in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to get the department to abide by the previous court orders.
On Friday the Democratic Alliance's James Selfe said the decision to place them under house arrest was made after the chairperson of the Zonderwater parole board was told by the department that the recommendation 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.
"Both the recommendation of the parole board and the decision of the Pretoria Regional Court were therefore wrong and should be set aside," he said.
But Stonehouse said: "We did not apply [for sentences to be commuted]. The jail did. The jail came and said they don't belong here anymore. They did their time and they are model prisoners."
"I know people want to see him [Gert] in jail, but everybody has got their right to their own opinion. If at least you try, give someone the chance. Why can they not have a second chance?"
He said his stepson and Tiedt had studied while in prison, founded a soccer team in the prison and completed all the courses correctional services had required of them.
Speaking about Van Schalkwyk's time at Zonderwater, Stonehouse said: "There was not one day when we came and visited our kid that we were handled in a bad way. You can see those people [prison officials] are trying to do everything right.
"You know what, my kid could have hated every day. My son's mind is open... .They could have made it difficult for him. He could have been a very different person."
"They must have taken this kid and done something right," he said.
The conditions of Van Schalkwyk and Tiedt's release are that they are under house arrest, with the exception of the 15 hours of community service they are required to perform every month.
Neither is allowed to consume alcohol. They have to be home between 18:00 and 07:00 on weekdays on the days on which they work. On the days on which they do not work, they have to be home from 13:00 to 08:00.
Tiedt has to clean the Transvaal Museum for his community service. Van Schalkwyk has to carry out his service at the Bronkhorstspruit police station.
The department said correctional services national commissioner Tom Moyane would obtain legal advice and then take a decision on how to take the matter further.
Earlier on Monday, Van Schalkwyk's mother Sarita Stonehouse said she was "elated, absolutely elated" that her son was about to be released.