Lost prisoner

2009-04-02 00:00

How is it that a prisoner can be “lost” in a South African jail for 10 years because the Department of Correctional Services has no record of him? This was the bizarre and unjust state of Ndoda Mtolo who has just been released by the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

Mtolo was convicted in 1999 of raping an 11-year-old girl who subsequently accused a different person of the same offence. Because there was no official record of Mtolo in prison, he could not make an appeal. This week, after 10 years of waiting, he was at last brought to court where even the prosecution declared that his appeal should succeed. Judge Kevin Swain ordered his immediate release and also instructed that Mtolo, now 79 years old, should be given a bus fare to get to his home. The judge’s humane but all-too-small gesture should have been magnified into an insistence on financial compensation by the state.

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