Westbury languishing under reign


Holding placards with “Govt Give Jobs!” “Poverty Kills Our Community” and “Poverty, our kinders suffer”, about 30 men, women and children blocked off streets, burned car tyres and toyi-toyied in protest. Photo: Natasha Hein

“About three months ago, the police made a chilling discovery in the backyard of an old woman living in Westbury — the unmarked graves of seven boys stacked on top of one another. The boys had worked for a druglord known as Clinch* in this notorious Johannesburg neighbourhood with its gangsters, drugs and soaring unemployment. Sniffer dogs had alerted the police to the bodies …”

WJP senior journalist,Ruth Hopkins, explores gangsterism in Westbury in her recent article, published in the Mail&Guardian. She writes: (1) The peace agreement made by Westbury gangs in the 1990s did not eliminate crime and brutality; (2) In Westbury, community riddled with rising unemployment, young men and boys are drawn into the drug trade, resulting in a vicious cycle of drug dealing and addiction; (3) Druglords have walked into the gap left by the gangs. The piece further looks at the deadly relationship between the police and the druglords.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Visit sophiatowncritical.co.za for more on the project.

Inequality before the law – Is South Africa’s criminal justice system punitive to the poor?

Picture2“Luckily for the Blade Runner, his fame and wealth mean he will probably inhabit a privileged and protected parallel prison universe, removed from that of ordinary inmates. If the “trial of the century” emphasised one thing, it was that South Africa’s justice system operates very differently if you are poor, black, male and without fame or notoriety …

Three years after Fakude’s initial incarceration in Bloemfontein’s Grootvlei prison, his trial is far from over, while Pistorius’ trial was done and dusted in less than seven months. Over 2,000 South Africans have been awaiting trial for over two years …

SA’s longest-serving remand detainee, Victor Nkomo, awaited his trial for nearly eight years in Johannesburg’s notorious Sun City prison, while repeatedly attempting to challenge his unconstitutional lengthy incarceration …

Or take the case of David Mkhwanazi, who, when late for work and running for his train, was arrested, supposedly sprinting away from the scene of a recent murder. After six years behind bars (where he contracted TB), Mkhwanazi was finally released when the judge deemed the evidence against him non-existent …

Thuba Sithole is currently doing time in Leeuwkop prison. His crime? The fact that his girlfriend’s name is Ayanda …

Former Kgosi Mampuru inmate Eric Viljoen, who has a prosthesis after losing a leg in a train accident, told the WJP how he was forced to navigate 56 steps five or six times a day in the prison’s E section, where he spent the last ten months in an over-crowded communal cell …

Those citizens who cannot afford to pay to uphold their human dignity are faced with a criminal justice system that is punitive towards the poor …”

Read WJP’s latest Op-Ed as it appeared in the Daily Maverick – written by Hopkins, Leslie, and Raphaely – looking at the disparities in treatment of the rich and poor by the South African criminal justice system here. Also read the article as it appeared in The Star, here.

Carolyn Raphaely and Ronnie Fakude on Checkpoint

CheckPointWJP senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely, has followed the story of paraplegic Ronnie Fakude very closely. On October 28th, Fakude and Raphaely appeared on eNCA’s Checkpoint to talk about the treatment of disabled inmates in South African correctional facilities. And to also give insight on whether the South African justice system favours the rich. Watch the video here (Starts at 7:35).

Visit WJP’s regularly updated blog on Ronnie Fakude here.

Justice Project needs your help with citizen journalism idea

safe_imageWits Justice Project is developing a citizen journalism programme for community radio and we’ve been given the chance to get funding from Making All Voices Count (www.makingallvoicescount.org/).

The programme is called The Citizen Justice Network and it is about activating marginalized communities to fight miscarriages of justice. We will equip eight Activists across the country to use old media (radio, print) and new (on-line streaming) to find gripping stories and change laws

The first step for the funding is about on-line voting. We need to get in the top fifty proposals with your votes. So if you could take a few moments and visit http://ideas.makingallvoicescount.org/a/dtd/The-Citizen-Justice-Network/94346-26650 we would really appreciate it. Just a vote. That’s all we need.

What does the public think of South African prisons?

The WJP has done a lot of work covering conditions in South African prisons. Our senior journalists have written stories on mass beatings, torture, solitary confinement, spread of communicable diseases, etc. WJP asked the public to describe their perception of South African prisons in one word. Here’s what they had to say:






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WJP in the media: Carolyn Raphaely speaks to ANN7 about disabled inmates in SA prisons

Senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely, speaks to ANN7 about disabled inmates in South African correctional facilities. Watch the video below…


The parallel universe in Kgosi Mampuru: Inmates with disabilities speak

Kgosi Mampuru

Kgosi Mampuru prison. Image: Google

“Also, there are no shower doors in the single cells but they do have their own toilets inside their cells. In the communal cells, there are no doors in the showers or the toilets. The inmates make their own plans. They take black garbage bags and hang them over broomsticks to make a curtain. That is the only privacy in the toilet.

“There are also single cells in the hospital section in H block. It’s quite flat there so it’s better for people like Oscar, or me. If something goes wrong at night, it will take two or three hours to get help. There are no intercoms there, you just have to shout and bang on the doors. If a member does appear, it’s up to them how long it’ll take to get help.”

Disabled inmates at Kgosi Mampuru share their experiences with WJP senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely. Read the piece as it appears on the Daily Maverick, here.


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