Documents submitted to the court as part of Gert van Schalkwyk and Reinach Tiedt’s applications for correctional supervision reveal a series of blunders, contradictions and “highly problematic” legal decisions that led to their early release.
Having spent three years in jail, they were released on a Monday after a week-long battle with the correctional services department, who then challenged the decision by the Zonderwater parole board to allow them to go.
The documents reveal that:
» John Mdaka, the chairperson of Zonderwater prison’s case management committee (the CMC, responsible for referring cases to the parole board), applied for conversion of their sentences in July, although the same committee argued in its application that the two had served too short a sentence to be considered for release;
» Mdaka’s July recommendation, that the two should not be released, is in stark contrast to a glowing report he wrote in favour of Van Schalkwyk a month earlier. Then, he said Van Schalkwyk was a “lovely young man, filled with passion and joy” and that he would make a success of himself if released; and
Prison rights activist Golden Miles Bhudu has called on President Jacob Zuma to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry into the Zonderwater parole board and said it was a “known fact that if you want to get your sentence converted, you must go to Zonderwater”.
This is not the first time the Zonderwater parole board has been at loggerheads with the department. Its former chairperson, Justin Setshedi, was suspended in 2009 for alleged irregularities regarding the granting of bail to former Noordelikes rugby captain Riaan Botha. Botha was serving a sentence for murdering an alleged 17-year-old game thief, Tshepo Matloha. In what was widely regarded as one of the worst race murders after apartheid, Matloha’s body was tied to a metal gate and dumped into a crocodile-infested dam.
The department responded to a Parliamentary question by the DA that Setshedi was charged because he did not inform prison officials of the decision to release Botha.
Winston Campbell, who preceded Setshedi as parole board chair, was in charge of the board when a member of the Boeremag also had his prison sentence converted to correctional supervision in 2005. Campbell said all procedures were followed in the case, but that correctional services officials were “unwilling to serve under people from outside” and were “obstreperous and undermining”.
About 19 326 prisoners were out of prison on correctional supervision, but only 51 have had their sentences converted through the provisions Van Schalkwyk and Tiedt relied on.
In December 2011, a bungle by the correctional service parole board saw Tiedt and Van Schalwyk released. After spending 18 months free, they were ordered back to prison in September the next year.
Reinach Tiedt, Gert van Schalkwyk, Christoff Becker and Frikkie du Preez had their 12-year sentence slashed by six months when President Jacob Zuma announced his Special Remission of Sentences on Freedom Day in 2012.
According to the Correctional Services Act, the four should have served half of their sentences before they could be considered for parole. They, however, served five and half years and would only have been eligible for parole in August. “They benefited from the President’s Special Remission of Sentence of six months,” Correctional Services spokesman Manelisi Wolela said.
Friends welcomed the quartet outside the Correctional Services headquarters in Pretoria . Eight friends of Becker and Du Preez greeted them with a banner of a picture of the four, and the message “Welkom terug Chrissie & Frikkie. Sit. Sit… ons maak tee (Welcome back Chrissie & Frikkie. Sit. Sit…we’ll make tea)”. Jean van der Schyf, who has been friends with Becker for 11 years, said he hoped the public would forgive the four as they have paid the price and have learnt their lesson.
“I am sure they will come out better people, with respect for other people, We are going to introduce them to new Afrikaans music. There will be lot of braaing and swimming to welcome them back,” he said.
Tiedt was the first to emerge from the main exit and led the way in declining to comment to waiting media.
Looking fit and cool in dark shades and a tight T-shirt, Becker was whisked off on a motorbike, after hugging his friends.
Du Preez also received hugs from his friends, before he was driven away by his father in a silver SUV.
Van Schalkwyk, the last to come out, walked hand-in-hand with his fiancé.
The four will only be completely free in 2019, when their sentences will be deemed served.“In terms of the legislation, the four have completed half of their sentences and were eligible for parole until their sentences expire,” Correctional Services spokesman Manelisi Wolela said.
As with the case of sentencing, parole is also a thorny issue. In accordance with the law, the Waterkloof 4 were released on parole . The law allows for this if the offenders have served 50% of their sentences and have completed internal correctional programmes and have been well behaved. According to parole documents the four were all but exemplary during their stay. Looking through parole documents it was found that they interacted well with other inmates and also took part in social activities. Study courses were also completed during this time. It is thus reasonable to concede that their release on parole is in accordance with the law.
“They are expected to comply with strict parole conditions. Any violation could result in their return to the centres.”
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