Top achieving KZN prisoners flown to Cape Town

2015-01-09 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL’S two top achieving prisoners jetted into Cape Town on a South African Express Airways aircraft on Wednesday to receive their matric results.

National Correctional Services spokesperson Manelisi Wolela confirmed that Njabulo Gumede (22), a convicted robber from Claremont, and Sibonelo Maphumulo (22), a convicted rapist from Mandeni — who were named the best matric pupils of the class of 2014 among inmates — were flown to Cape Town.

The men, both from Usethubeni Youth School in Durban’s Westville Prison, were honoured by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha at Goodwood prison in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The pair flew for the first time because officials said “it was too short notice to drive up”.

A flight to Cape Town on a South African Express Airways plane can set you back around R1 500 to R2 000, but regional commissioner of the KZN Department of Correctional Services Mnikelwa Nxele said “driving would have been problematic”.

“When we heard that the [prisoners] came first in the country we had to get them to Cape Town for the minister’s announcement but the request came late.

“It was very short notice. Cape Town is far and we knew that driving there was going to be a problem because previously we have had instances where officials and prisoners have perished on our roads,” said Nxele.

He said he made a request to the national commissioner to fly the men to Cape Town.

“No, they did not fly business class. It was just a South African Express Airways flight to Cape Town, not even I fly first class,” said Nxele.

He would not reveal how much taxpayers paid for the flight.

“I am not sure how much it costs or how much we paid for the flights,” said Nxele.

DA shadow minister of Correctional Services James Selfe was shocked by this.

Selfe said unless the circumstances were extreme and compelling, this was a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.

“It is very unusual indeed, virtually unheard of. This sounds to me like mismanagement. Prisoners are moved all over and all the time. But it is always by road,” said Selfe.

He also said: “There is also the safety element. They could have compromised the safety of passengers. It’s not a cheap exercise.”

IFP MPL Blessed Gwala disagreed with Selfe.

“If they have done something good and different to encourage other inmates then they deserved to be flown,” he said.

Gwala said flying them was safer than driving them to Cape Town.

“If they were driven it would have meant more police escorting them to Cape Town.”

Top performer Njabulo Gumede achieved an average of 69,4% in seven subjects while Sibonelo Maphumulo achieved an average of 65,8% in seven subjects.

Of the 34 pupils who had registered to write the exam, 26 passed with a pass rate of 76%.

Gumede said he enjoyed the flight.

“It was my first time on an aeroplane, we were seated right at the front,” he said.

Gumede is serving the last year of his three-year sentence.

Maphumulo, who is serving eight years for rape, said he was very nervous when he was told he would be flying.

“I was scared but it was very nice,” he said.

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