Gay inmate says prison halted his Unisa studies

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Behind bars ... A gay inmate has taken Correctional Services officials to court over his educational rights.
Behind bars ... A gay inmate has taken Correctional Services officials to court over his educational rights.
Luvuyo Mehlwana

An imprisoned murderer claims he is being denied access to his study material provided by Unisa because he spoke up about being sexually harassed because he is gay.

Mondli Maphanga on Wednesday brought an application to the Pietermaritzburg High Court seeking an order to compel the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, the national commissioner of correctional services, area commissioner and the head of the Waterval Prison to allow him to continue with his studies.

The case has been adjourned to November for papers to be filed, including answering affidavits to the allegations.

ALSO READ: Gay inmates ‘unsafe’

The 34-year-old inmate is serving life imprisonment for murder, robbery and theft. He said in court papers that he is a registered student at the University of South Africa. He enrolled for a course in life skills and teaching in June this year.

He explained that in 2013 educational hubs were established in all nine provinces where inmates are provided with laptops which they access from Mondays to Fridays. They are also allowed to access the internet for two hours a day.

Maphanga was serving his prison term at New Prison but was transferred to Waterval in Utrecht after he brought an application to the court to be moved because he felt unsafe because of his sexual orientation. He asked the court to order that he be moved to single cells to deter any further sexual abuse and sexual harassment by other inmates, or alternatively to be transferred to the Westville Correctional Centre where there is a unit that accommodates gay people.

ALSO READ: 'Police' film and mock gay couple

The court ordered he be moved to either Westville or Waterval prison.

Maphanga said on Wednesday that when he arrived at Waterval, he wrote to the head of the centre requesting access to a private laptop and modem for his studies, as there is no educational hub at Waterval. He said his application was ignored. The area commissioner turned the request down. He said he has not been able to finish his second term and added he has been subjected to “severe harassment” by the head of the prison and his second in charge.

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