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Special Report
Transcripts for Section 5 of Episode 72

50:38One of the reasons why we have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is that we should learn from past mistakes and never repeat it. Much of the abuse of the past happened inside police cells and prisons. Recently, at a special hearing on police cells former political detainees spoke passionately for a penal system that would not ever again be based on inhumanity and degradation. At about the same time C Max was unveiled, the new super security unit at Pretoria’s maximum security prison. Is C Max a return to the days of John Vorster Square and Robben Island?Full Transcript
51:17In September, at the end of his amnesty application for the Motherwell bombing - where security policemen blew up their colleagues - convicted mass murderer Eugene de Kock wanted to meet the family members of the murdered men.Full Transcript and References
51:35Mr. De Kock, lastly I’m instructed on behalf of those who I represent to say that your expressions of regret and sympathy have been noted and that should your desire to meet the families of those who have been killed be a genuine desire, that can be arranged. // I’d be very glad of that opportunity and I would like my legal representative to make arrangements with Mr. Ford, because currently I am under the jurisdiction of correctional services and they must just look at that legal aspect because I am currently in a maximum security prison where I can speak to nobody other than members of correctional services, but I would like to do that. Full Transcript
52:29Eugene de Kock could not speak to those families because he had just been moved to a new cell at Pretoria Maximum Security Prison. Cell 63 is housed in South Africa’s new super maximum security unit, known as C Max, Closed Maximum Security Unit. Life at C Max means exactly that: confinement, enclosure and 24 hour surveillance. De Kock is locked in a single cell for 23 hours, in effect held in solitary confinement. The single cell has a wire mesh ceiling which allows warders to watch the inmates all the time. ‘Single cell 23 Hours.’ De Kock cannot speak to anybody besides warders or fellow prisoners during the one hour of daily exercise. Exercise happens in an enclosed space and even then prisoners’ conversations are monitored. De Kock will receive his visitors three times a month behind a glass wall. They will speak through an intercom system. ‘No Contact Visit’ he cannot smoke a cigarette, he will eat in his cell, he will not shave. There is no television. He can read ...moreFull Transcript
54:04And we had to look at the method where we can specifically look at these people of aggressive behaviour, of escapees … and sort of put them in a programme for a period of three months after which we evaluate them, we talk to them to see that they are prepared to be let into the mainstream prison and they are not prepared to be disruptive and aggressive to other people. And what we did, we did a big surveillance, all over the world and we saw the idea of C Max. We saw how it worked in England, it might not be called C Max; and we saw how it worked in America. And the concept of America is the concept that we took and translated them into South African collisions. That the people who are disruptive to the prison population should be taken to an isolated area and receive individual treatment themselves. And this individual treatment is based on the fact that, in developing a prisoner you have to restrain and you have to give.Full Transcript
55:04There is agreement that those prisoners who kill, run gang or drug operations and repeatedly attempt escape, should be kept away from other prisoners. But watchdog groups like the Human Rights Commission have other concerns. There’s a big question mark about who goes to C Max. De Kock for instance was sent to C Max a few days after he had been upgraded to an A group prisoner for model behaviour.Full Transcript
55:32A group status in the penal world means the best possible behaviour. It allows you contact visits and it’s earned. Now if this person had earned A group status. // Is this Eugene de Kock? // That’s right. Notwithstanding the horrors of the crimes that he’d committed; if he’d earned A group status on the criteria that the department had laid down, then the department is saying to the prisoner we’re reasonable happy with your behaviour.Full Transcript
55:59If you look at the prognosis of Eugene de Kock. Anybody who thinks I took Eugene from Sunday school to prison…it’s just a fallacy. He has a bad profile, an evil profile. If you think of people he killed and at this point in time, how do you evaluate him and think that he may not continue that behaviour. And I want to emphasise, whoever made him an A, it was a big mistake. Full Transcript
56:23But finally and perhaps most importantly there is the question of whether the C Max concept is in line with the rights of prisoners as set out in the constitution. The constitution states that conditions of detention should be consistent with human dignity.Full Transcript
56:41The Constitution explicitly forbids torture and torture has been internationally, as you pointed out, recognized to cover not just physical abuse but psychological torture and I would agree that psychological torture is probably the most severe form of torture. I think internationally and nationally tests have indicated that holding someone under those types of conditions must cause severe damage to the emotional and psychological profile of that individual. And if that individual is ultimately to be released into society then are we being responsible to society as well. What kind of people are we then releasing into the community?Full Transcript
57:24If prisoners kill each other, stab each other, they’re always on my neck. They’re always fighting and saying we don’t respect the human rights of prisoners. And when we start to restrain and start to develop prisoners so they should stop aggressive behaviour then we don’t respect the human rights of prisoners.Full Transcript
57:39C Max is unveiled as a process is underway in our country of truth and reconciliation. We are told that the country is shocked by what is unfolding everyday with regard to the horrors of the past. One would have hoped that that would have led to some kind of consciousness on the part of the public to say well we’ve seen what has happened in the past, we must avoid it. But yet we have unveiled an institution that is so draconian and surprisingly there is wide public support for it. Now that may ask a legitimate question, are we really learning from the past?Full Transcript
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