Date: 12 September 2019 By: Andries van Zyl
Sixteen former South African Custodial Management (SACM) prison wardens were back in the Louis Trichardt District court last Thursday on charges of aiding escapees and interference with correctional or custody officials.
The case against them was, however, postponed again until November this year after their attorney made a presentation to the Director of Public Prosecution to decide whether or not to continue with the case. The State, however, is adamant that they have a strong case against the 16. All are out on a warning to appear again.
The case against the 16 relates to a prison riot at the Kutama Sinthumule Maximum Security Prison that saw seven dangerous inmates escape on the evening of 26 October 2017. The prison riot erupted amidst protest action by a group of wardens as part of a pension-fund dispute with their employer, SACM. Because of some wardens’ neglecting their duties, violence erupted, with some prisoners setting fire to mattresses. Amidst this chaos the seven prisoners escaped. Throughout the night, members of the local fire brigade as well as fire fighters from the Air Force Base Makhado had to assist to subdue the flames. Local police, assisted by the Soutpansberg Town Watch and members from other farm watch organisations, also had to assist to get the situation under control again.
Following the violence at the prison, 18 prison wardens were initially suspended by SACM. Of these, 16 were later fired by SACM. These 16 wardens are the ones who made their first court appearance last week on charges relating to helping the inmates escape by allegedly obstructing or preventing other wardens from doing their jobs. The 16 accused are Falaza Lawrence Mathebula, Avhashoni Samuel Mawela, Humbulani Wilfred Netshisaule, Enos Singo (40), Shalati Martha Chabalala (43), Khathutshelo Calvin Matamela, Thibang Mashila Seanego, Mauvhelwana Lawrence Makatu, Rendani Mathobo (42), Takalani Patrick Ramushengi (44), Mayabye Patrick Ludere (41), Shumani Sikhwari, Nanga Collen Sadiki (44), Fumani Dennis Mageza, Rudzani David Makatu (41) and Tshilidzi Calvin Ramatshimbila.
On a more positive note, all seven inmates who escaped during the riot were rearrested and are currently serving the remainder of their sentences.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.