Joburg prisoner takes Correctional Services to court over laptop access

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Johannesburg Prison (Photo from Google Maps)
Johannesburg Prison (Photo from Google Maps)

Correctional Services will allow a prisoner to sign court papers so he can proceed with litigation against the department, reports GroundUp.

Officials had earlier prevented Mbalenhle Nkosi, an inmate at Johannesburg Medium C Correctional Facility, from signing court papers that he needs to submit to the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg this week.

Nkosi, who is representing himself, is taking the prison to court for denying him access to his laptop which he needs for distance learning. He has accused the authorities of "infringing on his right to further education" by restricting his study time to when the computer room is open.

"The [prison] seeks to unfairly, irrationally, unjustifiably and unconstitutionally limit my basic right to education by limiting and unreasonably dictating the hours during which I am permitted to study," Nkosi said in court papers.

"This, despite the fact that I am locked up in a single cell for prolonged periods without anything constructive to do in all of that time. This goes against the very fabric of rehabilitation, and is contra to me becoming a productive individual upon my reintegration into society.”

The case was supposed to be heard on June 18 but was postponed to give Nkosi time to study the prison's court papers and submit a replying affidavit.

But when Ntuli's brother brought the replying affidavit to prison for him to sign on July 14, prison officials told him that he was not allowed in with the documents.

"I asked them to show me the policy that says I can't bring court documents to my brother but they couldn't show it to me," said Bongumusa Ntuli. "I told them that I had brought court documents here before and it was not a problem so I didn't understand why it was a problem now."

Ntuli told GroundUp that he was told his family needed to be accompanied by a lawyer if he wanted to sign the documents. But because he is representing himself in court, there is no lawyer.

Zandile Mabunda, spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Correctional Services, said Ntuli should have been allowed to sign his documents.

"It is not a regular procedure. The head of the centre was not aware that the family was not allowed to bring in the documents to be signed by the offender," said Mabunda.

She said the family was contacted to bring the documents for signing on Wednesday.

Ntuli confirmed that the wardens apologised to him and invited Bongumusa to bring the documents to be signed.

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