In a letter read out in court just after the lunch break on Tuesday afternoon, accused three in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial, Mthobisi Mncube, claimed that the inhumane conditions he is being kept in at Kgosi Mampuru Prison are impacting on the fairness of his trial.
The court was initially meant to deal with the challenge to its jurisdiction earlier in the day, but that never materialized as the complaint by Mncube dominated the morning’s proceedings.
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When asked for further comment from the witness box, Mncube said the situation he finds himself in is very difficult and as a result he is unable to think straight.
He was already serving a sentence for a different matter at the Johannesburg prison. He says while there, he was living with other inmates, before being transferred to Kgosi Mampuru for the duration of the current trial.
Asked about the conditions then and now, he replied: “They used to open for us in the morning and take us back, lock us up later in the afternoon at the Johannesburg prison.
“They would open for us around 7 and take us back at around 2 in the afternoon.”
He claims this no longer happens, and he is now confined to his cell for as long as 23 hours per day, while also being unable to do basic activities such as laundry.
“Here it happens twice a month and a person visiting is only allowed 30 minutes. Where I am currently at, there are no public phones… It’s tough here. I mean I haven’t been in touch with my children since last year.”
Mncube said Kgosi Mampuru makes him feel like he has an evil heart.
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Responding to the accused’s claims not long after the short adjournment just after 15:00 on Tuesday, Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela said there was no way he could have a good night’s sleep knowing the accused is subjected to such handling in prison.
However, he directed that this matter be relayed to the correct channels.
“As far as this letter is concerned, all i can say is my sympathy but no thanks. I can’t make a ruling. It is not my sphere,” Maumela added.