17 July 2019
The Department of Correctional Services has committed to allowing a prisoner to sign court papers so he can proceed with litigation against the department.
Mbalenhle Ntuli, an inmate at Johannesburg Medium C Correctional Facility, was prevented by officials from signing court papers that he needs to submit to the South Gauteng High Court this week.
Ntuli, who is representing himself, is taking the prison to court for denying him access to his laptop which he needs for distance learning. He has accused the authorities of “infringing on his right to further education” by restricting his study time to when the computer room is open.
“The [prison] seeks to unfairly, irrationally, unjustifiably and unconstitutionally limit my basic right to education by limiting and unreasonably dictating the hours during which I am permitted to study,” Ntuli said in court papers. “This, despite the fact that I am locked up in a single cell for prolonged periods without anything constructive to do in all of that time. This goes against the very fabric of rehabilitation, and is contra to me becoming a productive individual upon my reintegration into society.”
The case was supposed to be heard on 18 June but it was postponed to give Ntuli time to study the prison’s court papers and submit a replying affidavit. But when Ntuli’s brother brought the replying affidavit to prison for him to sign on 14 July, he was told by prison officials that he was not allowed in with the documents.
“I asked them to show me the policy that says I can’t bring court documents to my brother but they couldn’t show it to me,” said Bongumusa Ntuli. “I told them that I had brought court documents here before and it was not a problem so I didn’t understand why it was a problem now.”
Ntuli told GroundUp that he was told his family needed to be accompanied by a lawyer if he wanted to sign the documents. But because he is representing himself in court, there is no lawyer.
But Zandile Mabunda, spokesperson for Gauteng Department of Correctional Services, said Ntuli should have been allowed to sign his documents.
“It is not a regular procedure. The Head of the Centre was not aware that the family was not allowed to bring in the documents to be signed by the offender,” said Mabunda.
She said the family was contacted to bring the documents for signing on Wednesday.
Ntuli confirmed that the wardens apologised to him and invited Bongumusa to bring the documents to be signed.