Justice not for all as four inmates ‘rot’ in jail

Four Eastern Cape young men are today “rotting” in jail for committing comparatively petty crimes while others convicted of more serious crimes were given suspended sentences.

One of the young men in jail allegedly contracted HIV/Aids and TB while in prison.

The men were arrested between 2012 and last year for different crimes ranging from stealing sweets and milk to robbing a victim of R100.

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development spokesman Advocate Mthunzi Mhaga told the Dispatch that justice should be fair to all – both accused and victim – and that jail sentences should be looked at “as prisons have no space available”, but said he could not respond to questions on specific cases and referred them to the judiciary.

On July 21, a spokesman for the judiciary, Lusanda Ntuli, said they required time to gather information on the cases, but had not responded at the time of writing.

While many who have committed worse crimes, walk free on suspended sentences – or much lighter sentences – Yamkela Tshoyi was sent to jail for 10 years for robbing a man of R100 in 2013.

In the other cases:

lLast year, two teenagers – Thembikhaya Faniso and Firiri Mgezo, both 19 – were jailed for 15 years each for stealing sweets and milk worth R380.

lIn June last year, a Dimbaza man, Thuthuzelo Mfakade, was arrested and sentenced to three years in jail for stealing R100 from his employer.

Speaking to the Dispatch before being admitted to hospital, Mfakade, who is currently at St Albans Prison, said he pleaded guilty and paid the money back to his boss.

“I paid the money back. I took the money as I needed it for my place but I was sentenced to jail and I am here now, sick. I was diagnosed with HIV/Aids and TB.

“I am a victim of rape inside here and I feel, if I was given a lesser sentence, I would have survived this,” said Mfakade.

Meanwhile, Tshoyi’s father, Mxolisi Nata, said he wanted to “expose” the justice system but he had no platform.

“Today my child is in his fifth year in jail for robbing a person of R100. He was a first-time offender. He was not alone, they were three.

“Others told the court that they never committed the crime and he pleaded guilty and for his honesty in front of the court, he got 10 years in jail,” said Nata.

Lutho Jolobe of the Legal Resources Centre in Grahamstown said in terms of the constitution, everyone should be equal before the law.

“The constitution, which is the supreme law of our country, states that everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.”

Jolobe said this right did not always serve the best interests of poor and vulnerable people.

“I personally think that we as society should be enlightening vulnerable people in our society on where they can go to seek legal assistance, should the need arise.

“There are so many organisations which have been mandated by government and other external funders to assist those who are less fortunate with their legal problems,” he said.

The Dispatch has reported on a number of cases where convicted criminals avoided jail time and got suspended sentences even though they committed more serious crimes than these men.

In April this year, a primary school clerk, Amelia van der Schyff, who stole R170000 from her school, was asked by the East London court to pay back the money she took from the school in 30 days or risk going to jail for five years.

The court sentenced her to five years in jail for theft, suspended for five years and she was sentenced to three years of house arrest and 18 months of community service.

In August last year, Monwabisi Ngumbela was convicted of fraud and theft relating to incidents where he pretended to be a representative of an East London bookstore.

The store had supplied books to seven schools to the value of R260000 which he took.

He offered to pay back the money and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment suspended for two years on condition he compensate the complainant.

In Buffalo Flats, two men found guilty of trying to bribe a police officer were given suspended sentences and fined a combined R80000 by the East London Magistrate’s Court.

“Having money and being able to afford a good legal team can ensure that you are well represented,” said Jolobe.

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