James Kazongo remains in hospital with a broken leg after being assaulted by 3 prison guards. SJ Dodgson. MJoTA 2013 v6n1
This morning my Congolese friends and I piled into a car
driven by a pastor and drove from Johannesburg to Pretoria, past the biggest
building I have ever seen that looks like a mountain and pulled into the
parking lot of Pretoria Central Prison. Which detained Nelson Mandela several
decades ago, before he was moved 2000 miles south off the coast of Capetown to
Pretoria Central Prison has the reputation of being the
worst jail in South Africa. It looks friendly enough, for a prison, from
outside. The guards and the receptionists were efficient and working hard; they
pushed through the visitors without hostility, without resentment. This morning was my second visit; both times
I left everything except my passport and gifts for the prisoners in the car.
Gifts had to be food, drinks, newspapers, cash or telephone time. Nothing could
be opaque, or in glass. A stern notice near the reception declared that
birthday were banned from May 2012.
After we had first been taken into a room and body searched
and each gift searched, we went through passport control, then an xray machine
and our gifts through a separate machine; then all our gifts were searched
again. Then we walked down, down stone steps, along a long corridor, upstairs
past a mural of a giraffe to a waiting room, from where we were called to say
that our “offenders” were ready to receive gifts and chat with us for 30
Today I went to see James Kazongo for a second time, but he
was not there. He had been badly beaten 6 days ago. The men saw and heard the
beating. James had asked for telephone time, which had never been a problem.
But on May 22, the day before the Congolese 20 were scheduled to go on trial, 3
guards went into his cell in response to his request, and beat him up. He
limped into court the next day, and not until the following day, 2 days later,
May 24, was he taken to hospital. The attack from the guards was so savage that
his leg was broken, and he remains in hospital today, May 28, 4 days later.
I know who brutally attacked James Kazongo. The guards were
well-known to the prisoners: Mr Moholo,
Mr Moja and Mr Sadike. I call for their immediate suspension from duty and
arrest for assault and battery.
The evidence against the Congolese 20 has been fabricated:
from one hard-working man after another I have heard the same story. Two white
men with documentation and photographs to show they were serious offered
contracts and jobs to Congolese men who were mostly security guards, and until
the white men started aiming guns at them and demanding they dress in military
uniforms and sign documents confessing guilt
in organizing a coup against Congo, the Congolese 20 really did believe they
were taking part in setting up an anti-rhino-poaching camp.
What distresses me most is that these men do not have legal
representation, nor have they had. None of them have had much education, only 4
or 5 of them speak the flawless English needed to assimilate into South Africa,
none of them have ever been in trouble with the law. They do not understand
lawyers, they do not understand courts, and they do not understand the South
African legal system.
Right from the beginning, they should have been explained
that lawyers are provided through South African legal Aid for all who cannot
afford lawyers. Somehow all the wires were crossed and I was told in
Philadelphia that the men did not have any legal representation, and they were
told to raise money anyway they could to get it. The wives and relatives
borrowed 20,000 rand to hire the first lawyer, who did not bother to show up
for the bail hearing, sending only 2 students.
The second lawyer was also given 20,000 rand, which the
wives and relatives also borrowed, and on the eve of the scheduled trial date
told the wives and relatives he needed an immediate 15,000 rand or he would not
represent them. And he did not. He showed up, and yielded the floor to the
legal aid lawyer of Etienne Kabila.
Etienne Kabila has a bail hearing scheduled for tomorrow,
and in advance of this, wrote to his legal aid lawyer and asked him to work
with the paid lawyer who was not paid and did not represent the men.