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22 July 2002
Sodomy and Prisons 

...can we expect a corrupt government to root out corruption?

Some weeks ago a hard hitting television show screened a video recording made in one of our local prisons. The recording was made by four inmates who had enough of corruption and the money making rackets inside prisons. The recording equipment was supplied by the local warden who thought that this was a brilliant idea to show the public that despite numerous promises by the authorities, corruption was still rife in prisons.

No doubt, it took a lot of guts for these inmates to do what they did. We all have an idea (and hopefully not firsthand experience) of what prison is like on the inside. Never mind the risk of corrupt wardens discovering this plot of exposing them! We saw drugs changing hands, we saw wardens escourting drug carrying prisoners from their cells to other sections to re-sell these drugs, we saw alcohol being sold to prisoners by wardens who even sat down to have a tot or two. We saw wardens providing youths to paying prisoners for sex.

The recording was shown to the authorities before screening on national television. After the screening an interview followed with a representative from a prisoner organisation and the relevant minister in charge of corrective services answering questions. This was obviously one of the biggest knocks the integrity of the prison services got in a while. And since the 'family business' debacle, they did not need this!

The minister responded with the least expected reply saying that his department was not in the 'Hollywood' and 'movie' business and that the relevant warden will face disciplinary action. Obviously a full investigation had to take place. And some of this has happened in court. The warden has been transferred (or that's the official response) and the poor prisoners are left to their own device. With wardens and other prisoners ganging up on them we can't expect a much longer lifespan than what they've enjoyed so far. With attempted poisoning just one of the attempts on their lifes. With a sentence for murder, a prisoner can expect to be out in about two years time, so they still have a life to look forward to and by the way, if you don't pay your license fee, you get to sit for six months!

Anyway..., one warden has so far been found guilty of corruption. The court discovered this man had property far beyond what he could afford on a wardens salary. Selling a forty buck bottle of Brandy for a hundred to two hundred bucks can make a pretty neet sum considering he sold an average of three to five bottles a week. Definitely a bonus.

News are now circulating that another warden (at another prison) has been found guilty of sodomising a youngster seven times during the past couple of weeks. I suppose dealing with hardened criminals every day of your life can have a negative effect on your everyday outlook on life, but ruining a kids life is not part of the game.

There are two sections in our prisons. Minors are housed in a seperate section for which prisoners and wardens need special clearance and authority to enter (those who don't belong there). Obviously this system is not working at all, or we have wardens that don't care a damn or are part of this 'lifestyle'. Yet when one warden decided to stand up and be counted, he got nailed. I don't care that this man is black, he had the guts and concern with no-one around him giving a damn. It must be understood at the same time that wardens are pretty much running the system at these institutions, with criminals most of the time dictating what goes.

No doubt the situation can be fixed, but is anyone in power willing? Will this die out like most other corruption scandals? A couple of guys will get nailed as a show to the public that something has been done. But like Tony Yengeni and so many before him, it will become a non-event. The transgressors will be transferred to other high profile posts where consultants will dictate what can be done and what not in order to stop any embarresment to the ANC government.

And I thought the TV series OZ was bad!

The municipal workers came to a compromise last week. In a structured settlement with government workers earning less than a certain salary will get a nine percent increase with those above this income group getting eight percent. A minimum salary was also set at R2 100 with a general increase to all members of parlaiment of seven percent. That puts Thabo Mbeki at just over R922 thousand a year with the lowest paid 'people's representatives' at over R320 thousand a year. Considering that this does not include benefits like housing subsidies, luxury cars, overseas trips and general spending benefits, it is bordering on the ridiculous!

SAMWU must accept responsibility for their members. If and when the situation is called for to go on a general strike, members must stick to the agreed principals of the action. If truth be told, I think this is exactly what SAMWU had in mind and it would not surprise me if their officials were behind the violence that took place.

It is very strange though that this organisation decided on their actions only now. We all know that government is corrupt. We all know that most government organisations and departments are corrupt. We know that there is a gravy train. We can see the new Volvos, BMWs, Jaguars, Daimlers and Mercedes's on the roads. And we know that most of these are government officials with better perks than before the average increases in services we've had last month. We can see roads breaking apart, we can see the feeble show of care from city and government officials with services (and delivery of) dropping faster than the shuttly re-entering earths' atmosphere.

Bottom line, why don't we do something about this? Are we too relaxed, too scared, too hesitant about support or just plain lazy? Simple answer - we cannot agree on a common cause. Sad to say, but it's our own fault.

In the meantime - 
Fuel prices dropped but consumer goods don't.
The ECT bill debacle continues.

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