Prisons at war

2011-12-17 20:26

In a bizarre twist, the prisons department will tomorrow appeal its own court victory to have two of the Waterkloof Four killers released under correctional supervision.

A dramatic 48 hours followed the Pretoria Regional Court’s order, on the parole board’s request, to release Reinach Tiedt and Gert van Schalkwyk from the Zonderwater Prison, outside Cullinan.

Tiedt, Van Schalkwyk and their two young friends assaulted one homeless man and murdered another homeless man in Pretoria in 2001.

In the hours following the court’s order:

» The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) personally called the magistrate who issued the order, asking him to postpone the case;

» The DCS ignored a second court order, this time by the North Gauteng High Court, for the men’s release;

» High Court Judge Eben Jordaan sentenced Zonderwater’s area commissioner Tozamile Tana and prisons head Tivani Makasana to 30 days in jail for contempt of court; and

» Tiedt and Van Schalkwyk were discharged from prison and driven to the prison’s gates, before being locked up again after prison officials received “orders from above”.

City Press understands the decision by the Zonderwater parole board, to effectively convert the killers’ 12-year sentence into house arrest, has angered senior prison officials.

They are now demanding explanations and refuse to let the men out of prison.

In 2008, Tiedt, Van Schalkwyk and two friends – Christoff Becker and Frikkie du Preez – were convicted after a protracted battle to stay out of jail.

They were all aged 16 at the time of the murder and were sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment each.

On Thursday, the parole board was granted a court order to release Tiedt and Van Schalkwyk, now aged 26. They were informed by prison officials to collect their belongings as they were going home.

But according to their lawyer Jenny Brewis, correctional services’ legal head Ruben Mbuli allegedly instructed Zonderwater warders not to release the men as they were about to leave jail.

The chairperson of the Zonderwater parole board, Advocate Hendrik Theron, had apparently asked the regional court clerk if the court was willing to postpone the execution of the release order.

Pretoria Regional Court Magistrate Peet Johnson, who issued the order, also took “strong exception” to a department official who called him personally and requested that the order be postponed.

Theron was not available for comment yesterday.

City Press understands that the DCS will argue tomorrow the initial court order was not served on them properly and intends using this as the main reason why they did not attend the high court proceedings on Friday.

On Friday, Judge Jordaan ordered Tana and Makasana to appear in court on January 24 to explain why they should not be sent to jail for contempt of the original order.

He also questioned why the department refused to release the men, despite the parole board’s decision to convert the sentence.

Jordaan rejected the argument that the order was not properly served on the department, saying: “It is clear they are aware of the order and that it was properly served on them.”

The judge remarked: “I thought I had seen everything in my old age. But it clearly appears I have not.”

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