‘Becker won’t have it easy in SA’s super jail’

2014-04-14 00:00

NO hardened criminal would like to be sent to the Ebongweni maximum security prison close to Kokstad in KwaZulu-Natal.

So says University of SA criminology professor Anni Hesselink about the future facing Christoff Becker, one of the so-called Waterkloof Four, who has been moved to this prison.

“He will have lots of time to spend thinking about what he has done,” said Hesselink.

Ebongweni is the prison that boasts the strictest security measures in the country and is being managed by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) as a government institution.

The prison was built over a four-year period and received its first inmates in 2002.

With an electrified security system with pneumatic sliding doors, closed circuit tele­vision and an electric fence linked to an alarm system, it is the country’s super jail. No one has ever escaped from here.

Due to its intensive monitoring of inmates, the prison is more staff intensive than any other correctional institution in the country.

South Africa’s most hardened prisoners, who have been classified as high-risk inmates, are sent to this prison when they do not adhere to prison rules or try to escape.

Ebongweni is divided into four units, which again are divided in six sections, to accommodate 360 prisoners. Each section, which houses 60 prisoners, is again divided in six sub-sections for 10 prisoners each.

In total, 1 440 inmates can be held in single cells.

Entry to each single cell block is controlled by biometric fingerprint systems that can inform each control room who opened which door.

DCS spokesperson Manelisi Wolela said it had been decided to transfer Becker to this prison after his misconduct and after showing he “was not ready for a rehabilitation process”.

Becker was caught with a cellphone after a surprise search in the Kgosi Mampuru prison. His rights as a group A prisoner, which include telephone calls and visitors, were curtailed and as a result the DCS also decided to transfer him to Ebongweni.

“He will have a hard time,” said Hesselink, who has done research about the habits of prisoners for many years.

“The DCS has really pulled the carpet from underneath Becker’s feet.”

Becker has now been forced to think about what he had done and he will have ample time to do so. Becker showed that he regarded his detention as a joke, said Hesselink.

She said all Becker had been able to do while in prison was to set up an advanced criminal network outside and inside his cell.

“The DCS has now removed any contact he may have had with a criminal element, which means that he will not be able to do anything as a result of the limited contact he has with inmates.

“Prisoners are locked up here for long periods and there is a very strict approach towards rehabilitation.”

Like his fellow prisoners, Becker will be locked up in his single cell for 23 hours per day and will only be allowed one hour per day to exercise in another room.

Every move of the prisoners is monitored.

“He will not be allowed to sit in a courtyard where he could socially mix with other prisoners. All contact is intensely monitored,” said Hesselink.

She said Ebongweni maximum prison is not a jail you would like to be sent to because it brands you as a troublemaker.

“Someone who does not respect rules, regulations or authority lands up in this prison.”

Hesselink questioned the attitude with which Becker initially approached his rehabilitation programme in Pretoria.

“He, like many other prisoners, merely did it for parole purposes, but I doubt if he really had any remorse or felt responsible for what he had done,” said Hesselink.

Becker will have to serve at least one more year in prison.

V Anni


University of SA criminology


“He will not be allowed to sit in a courtyard where he could socially mix with other prisoners. All contact is intensely monitored.”

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