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Thembekile Molaudzi

Thembekile Molaudzi

On Tuesday, August 25 2015, the Wits Justice Project (WJP) celebrated the release of Thembekile Molaudzi – a man who spent 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

WJP journalist – Carolyn Raphaely – doggedly followed the case of Molaudzi for three years and helped him gain access to his court transcripts and legal assistance to appeal his wrongful conviction. Tuesday evening brought together Molaudzi’s family and those who played a significant role in proving Molaudzi’s innocence.

The WJP uses journalism, research, advocacy, and education to positively contribute to the South African criminal justice system. In a recent opinion piece, which appeared on Business Day on August 27, Anton Harber – Caxton Professor of Journalism at Wits University – wrote that the South African public is not always sympathetic to the plight of those behind bars:

“The WJP experiments with using journalism, law and advocacy to investigate problems in the justice system and push for improvements. Journalists investigate and write about the many issues in our policing, courts and jails, including exposing serious problems ranging from the use of torture to prison conditions. They also work with the government, making policy inputs, for example, and with lawyers to use the courts to intervene to right a wrong.

One might hope this would get public support, knowing how easy it is for any of us to get caught in the web of a dysfunctional criminal system. “It could be you,” is the project’s slogan. In fact, anticrime sentiments mean there is little public sympathy for those in the system — other than white celebrities such as Oscar Pistorius — even if they are still awaiting trial.”

Carolyn Raphaely, Thembekile Molaudzi, Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, Anton Harber (from left to right)

Carolyn Raphaely, Thembekile Molaudzi, Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, Anton Harber (from left to right)

According to Harber, “you cannot find solutions without highlighting the problems.” He also highlighted the WJP’s uniqueness in that it is donor-funded enabling it to dedicate a vast amount of time investigating a particular case to find possible solutions.

“Journalism begins with finding the issues, exposing them and trying to get the authorities to pay attention to them. This often involves working with those in opposition, or anyone who will help, including whistle-blowers and “unnamed sources” in the system. Discourage journalists from doing this and you are only encouraging those in authority who want to avoid the problems and have the media focus on their repetitive statements claiming progress and victory.

The WJP is unusual in its capacity, due to philanthropic funding, it is able to spend time on a case and possible solutions. Overstretched newsrooms can seldom do this, but they can do the first part of the task: exposing wrongdoing, identifying problems and causing trouble for those in authority. Journalists’ capacity for finding solutions is limited, but their capacity to draw attention to problems is hugely valuable”.

We will run a series of blog posts to share our photos and podcasts in the coming week.

Read more on Molaudzi’s story here.

Molaudzi with wife and son

Molaudzi with wife and son

Preventing Torture in South Africa – the Symposium outcome document

COVER-page-001As previously reported, the Wits Justice Project was able to host a symposium on torture in South Africa in 2014 through the generous support of the Claude Leon Foundation. The two-day symposium (28-29 August 2014), brought together members of civil society, academics, legal experts, human rights activists, and survivors of torture, to deliberate on the first year of the “torture bill” and the necessary follow-up steps needed for the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).

Reports of torture, including mass torture, in South African detention facilities continue to surface. The most important have been broken by the Wits Justice Project team, namely the St Alban’s mass torture and the Mangaung G4S series on forced injections and abuse of force.

The proceeding and outcomes of the symposium have been collated into a booklet which is printed and being distributed widely and also available online here.


Event: Justice for Breakfast roundtable on Transitional Justice and Criminal Justice Reform

jfb-1-aprilSave the Date: Justice for Breakfast 2015
Judging the Judging: Transitional justice and criminal justice reform
When: Wednesday, 2 September 2015 from 8 – 10.30 am (breakfast will be served)
Where: Jacobs Area, Albert and Bert Wessels Building
Wits School of Governance, 2 St David’s Place, Parktown
RSVP: events.wsg@wits.ac.za or 011 717 5678

About Justice for Breakfast 2015

This year the Justice for Breakfast will be offered in a series of 4 breakfast roundtables over the course of 2015 with stakeholders from the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster of
departments, civil society stakeholders and academics.

The intention of this series will be to put the spotlight on the various links in the criminal justice chain. Here key issues and solutions for policing, remand detention, courts, and corrections will be considered.

The series will coalesce around the spirit of the NDP, and there will be a concerted effort to move beyond the problematizing of issues to a solutions focus.
Our expectation is that this process will open up possibilities, and through the roundtable format, in a trusted space, to build on the ideas of the NDP with practical ‘how to’ ideas.

The third roundtable will look at transitional justice and criminal justice reform. A more detailed concept note will follow.

We look forward to welcoming you to a robust exchange.

Catherine MoatWits School of Governance
Head: Public Safety Programme
Wits School of Governance

WJP logo

Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi
Project Coordinator
Wits Justice Project

Do you want to bring about a little justice in the world? Join our team.

The Wits Justice Project (WJP) is looking for an intern from October 2015.

Remuneration: Competitive monthly stipend
Education level: Degree
Job level: Intern
Type: 6-month contract with option to renew once
Commence: October 2015

– A relevant degree from an accredited University
– Proven ability to carry out journalistic research and investigations, and to be able to produce from that compelling media products
– A keen interest in human rights
– Contactable references and proof of previous work
– A good attitude towards administration, and ability to multi-task

– An understanding of the non-profit working environment and constraints
– Social Media and web site management experience

Job Description
As an intern you will be required to:
– Produce regular social media including blogs, tweets, Facebook posts
– Investigate and research, identify and interview and produce journalist products (including written news stories, in-depth pieces, radio reports and photographs)
– Be willing to visit prisons, courts and police stations from time to time
– Be willing to interview inmates
– Evaluate and respond to correspondence from inmates
– Carry out various office administration including minute-taking, report-writing and other related tasks
– Be willing to assist with a variety of projects including organising events and seminars
– Work as a member of a small, hard-working, team which is passionate about human rights

Send a full CV and a covering letter by 28 August 2015 to:
Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi
Project Coordinator
Tel: +27-11-717-4077
Fax: +27-86-765-6601


WJP welcomes visiting African experts in transitional justice

The Wits Justice Project (WJP) team was excited to host a group of African experts in transitional justice yesterday.

IJR Fellows at WJP (26)

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) hosts an annual fellowship programme in transitional justice aimed at exposing mid-career professionals working on justice and reconciliation issues in their home countries, to transitional justice theory and practice.

The group – of 9 men and women from South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, DRC, Burundi and South Africa – spent part of the afternoon on 5 August at the WJP offices at Wits University. They received an historical overview of prisons in South Africa, as well as a briefing on the challenges facing the criminal justice system in the country.

IJR Fellows at WJP (40)

As a democratic state South Africa has only just turned 21 and its achievements and remaining challenges should be viewed in that perspective. Although most of the problems of the criminal justice system are not unique to the country, the burdens of the past add an extra dimension of complexity to the issues.

Some of the issues covered in the presentation include:

  • Incarceration as punishment began in South Africa began after the abolition of slavery in 1834 (Institute of Security Studies, 1998), and the resultant decline in the supply of labour to farms. A penal system was devised to put convicts to work, both in public projects as well as on mines and farms. This practice continued even through to the depression in the 1930s, when prison labour was made available to farmers at a very low cost.
  • In 1959, in line with the state’s institutionalised racism – apartheid – new prison legislation was promulgated which entrenched the racial segregation of prisons. Furthermore, the new legislation reinforced the military culture of prison management. “Although staff members were defined as civil servants”, explains the Institute of Security Studies, “their status was that of paramilitary personnel. In addition, all prisons became closed intuitions: all media and outside inspections were prohibited”.
  • After the increasingly vehement anti-apartheid protests in the early 1960s, the incarceration of political detainees and sentenced prisoners became a characteristic of South African prisons (Singh, 2005). Among these political prisoners were the leaders of the anti-apartheid struggle, including the country’s most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela. His plight, and that of other high-profile detainees, helped to galvanise global support for the anti-apartheid struggle, and raised concern about prison conditions among international organizations such as Amnesty International, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
  • After the release of Nelson Mandela in the early 1990s, and in the lead-up to the first democratic elections in 1994, moves were made to transform the prison system. This included changing the name of the responsible agency from the Department of Prisons to the Department of Correctional Services, signalling a shift of focus towards becoming an “institution that was transparent and accountable.
  • With the adoption of the new Constitution in 1996, the rights of detainees were clearly defined and enshrined. This includes, in section 35(2)(e):

Everyone who is detained, including every sentenced prisoner, has the right to conditions of detention that are consistent with human dignity, including at least exercise and the provision, at state expense, of adequate accommodation, nutrition, reading material and medical treatment.

 …the transformation of the correctional system, from its pre-democratic emphasis on retributive justice and the “warehousing” of detainees to its new democratic focus on restorative justice directed at rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders, is no simple task. It is in fact complex and onerous ….

  • The fact that, in addition to the prison system, both the police and the judiciary were also used as tools of an oppressive regime for decades means that Judge Van Zyl’s explanation can be applied to the whole of the criminal justice continuum. It also means that any meaningful reform and remedy must take stock of the entire system in order to be effective.

IJR Fellows at WJP (33)

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke on transparency of the judicial process

Dikgang Moseneke National Press Club speech_quotes for blogs_June 2015-page-002 (5)

South Africans are entitled to a judicial system that they can trust; Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke expressed this sentiment. Moseneke was speaking at the National Press Club Newsmaker of 2014 that was hosted at the North West University in May.

To read his full speech click here.

Update on Thembekile Molaudzi: wrongfully-convicted man tells his story to the media

Carolyn and Thembekile

Article that was published in Pretoria News in June 30.

We are sure you’ve seen or heard at least one of the many tweets, Facebook posts, radio interviews or articles that have resulted from our coverage of the story of Thembekile Molaudzi: a man recently freed after 11 years’ imprisonment, for a crime he did not commit.

Thembekile and Carolyn Raphaely, our journalist who has investigated and followed Thembekile’s case for more than 3 years, have been on a media whirlwind in the last ten days. We’ve collated most of the output here, in case you’ve missed any.

We particularly encourage you to click on the links to one of the radio podcasts as they are all in-depth interviews, which give you a chance to hear Thembekile tell his own story:


  Station and Host Podcast/ insert Link
Radio Radio 786 –Interview with  Hassen Sera
Radio Radio 702 – Redi Thlabi Read article and listen to podcast here
Radio Cliff CentralHost Gary Herzberg, on “Laws of Life” Listen to podcast here
Radio Kaya FM – Today with  John Perlman Listen to podcast here
Radio Power FM – Power Life with Masechaba Lekalake Listen to podcast here
TV ENCA – Thulasizwe Simelane Watch news insert and feature here 
TV SABC CUTTING EDGE Airdate to be confirmed, possibly 21 July

Support our work: http://www.witsfoundation.co.za/givejustice.asp



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