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‘ANC must help me’

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“If the ANC assisted Block with his legal fees they should assist me too”

AN INMATE being detained at Tswelopele Correctional Centre in Kimberley, Zonizelo Richard Magawu, is calling for the same treatment that the ANC afforded its former provincial chairperson John Block – who is serving a 15-year sentence after he was found guilty of corruption and money laundering.

Magawu said that he is in the process of submitting an application to the Constitutional Court as he believes that his rights are being violated while he is behind bars.

Magawu, along with four other accused, is facing trial on charges of murder, kidnapping, the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition following the murder of DA councillor Johannes Baatjies and a family friend, Jeffrey Nouse, near Danielskuil in 2016.

Baatjies and Nouse were shot execution style after they were lured to a bogus business meeting along the side of the road between Danielskuil and Postmasburg. The incident took place a day before Baatjies was to be sworn in as a councillor at Kgatelopele Local Municipality on August 17, 2016.

Magawu highlighted that Block continued to receive his salary and retained his title up until his voluntary resignation after being found guilty of corruption and money laundering.

“If the ANC assisted Block with his legal fees they should assist me too,” said Magawu.

He proclaimed his innocence and lamented that the charges had created a perception that he had “killed for the ANC”, while he felt deserted by the ANC regional and provincial structures.

“The DA councillor seat consequently [following Baaitjies’ death] became vacant at Kgatelopele Municipality, to the benefit of the ANC. I am still a card carrying member, who loves the ANC. Why am I not being afforded the same protection – where the same organisation that deployed me, maintained that Block was innocent until proven guilty?

“High-ranking officials and members came in their numbers to show their support for Block. Although I am also a leader, only a handful of branch members are using their own money to travel to Kimberley to attend my court proceedings. All I am asking for, is equal treatment for all ANC members.”

Magawu stated that his labour dispute with the ANC was dismissed on February 3 as he was unable to attend three Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) hearings because he was incarcerated.

“My post as the parliamentary competency officer at the ANC offices in Danielskuil, which I occupied since 2013, has not been filled. My employment was prematurely and maliciously terminated. I am being treated as if I have already been found guilty. The ANC has already distanced itself from me prior to the conclusion of the trial.”

Magawu indicated that his salary was suspended in June 2019 after the ANC informed him, upon enquiry, that his contract had ended in March 2019.

“I was not given notice of the termination of this contract, nor were any reasons provided why my employment had come to an end. By continuing to receive a salary two months after the so-called natural end of my contract, it created an impression that my contract had been extended.”

Magawu added that he was the only breadwinner in his family.

“My family is struggling financially and have to rely on relatives to provide them with food and school fees for my children. I am neglecting my duties as a father if I am not able to guide my children because I am in prison. My loss of income amounts to about R270 000, my legal fees have risen to about R600 000 and I incur monthly expenses of R1 500 for my WorldCall airtime and groceries in prison because I am a diabetic. In the event that I am exonerated of the charges, I will sue for defamation of character, wrongful arrest, wrongful detention and the emotional suffering of my family.”

Magawu complained that no arrangements were made to allow the labour matter to be heard at the correctional centre.

He is also aggrieved that he was not permitted to attend his father’s and niece’s funerals in February last year.

“I was not allowed to pay my last respects to my father, who suffered a heart attack.”

Magawu also indicated that he was not able to complete his studies behind bars.

ANC Frances Baard regional spokesperson Tshepo Louw stated that Magawu’s contract had come to an end. “He is no longer an ANC employee. We don’t want to comment further than that, thank you.”

Magawu’s legal representative in the labour matter, Joel Jood, stated that the head of the Correctional Services centre had made arrangements for the CCMA matter to be heard at the correctional facility on February 3.

“It is not untoward to hold labour hearings at a prison. My client had to make representations in person at all three hearings that he was not able to attend as he was in custody. The matter cannot be made on his behalf or in his absence. On the day of the hearing, the CCMA commissioner indicated that he did not feel comfortable having the hearing take place at the correctional facility and dismissed the case.”

He said that his client would have to make a new application to the CCMA. “There is uncertainty whether my client will be afforded the opportunity to attend the hearing outside the prison grounds, or if the CCMA adjudicator will agree to accommodate the new application at the facility.”

The CCMA had not responded to media enquiries at the time of going to press.

The acting deputy regional commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services in the Free State and Northern Cape region, Gustav Wilson, pointed out that while it was not normal practise to accommodate CCMA hearings at correctional centres, a concession was made to assist the inmate.

“The correctional centre took the initiative to assist as challenges were experienced with the police to collect and transport the detainee, who was awaiting trial, to the CCMA hearing. Sentenced inmates are permitted to attend CCMA hearings under the care of Correctional Services. Remand detainees (awaiting trial prisoners) are permitted to attend such hearings under the care of the SAPS. If inmates are outside the prison grounds or released from the correctional facility, it is upon themselves to attend CCMA hearings,” said Wilson.

He indicated that visitors entering any correctional centre were subject to standard security procedures, including the searching of the visitors and items, the escorting of visitors into the correctional centre and the provision of direct supervision by correctional officials during the visit.

Wilson added that sentenced offenders who fulfilled the requirements to attend burials were transported to burials by the Department of Correctional Services.

“Approval is only granted to attend burials of close relatives, if the offender qualifies. Approval is not granted for offenders to attend events such as weddings, births or the unveiling of tombstones.”

He explained that the police had to grant approval for the attendance of remand detainees at burials. “The remand detainee will apply to the SAPS and it will be dealt with within the prescripts and criteria as set out by the delegated authority in the SAPS.”