Quote of the week

Excluding refugees from the right to work as private security providers simply because they are refugees will inevitably foster a climate of xenophobia which will be harmful to refugees and inconsistent with the overall vision of our Constitution. As a group that is by definition vulnerable, the impact of discrimination of this sort can be damaging in a significant way. In reaching this conclusion it is important to bear in mind that it is not only the social stigma which may result from such discrimination, but also the material impact that it may have on refugees.

Mokgoro J and O’Regan J (dissenting)
Union of Refugee Women and Others v Director, Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority and Others (CCT 39/06) [2006] ZACC 23
22 May 2007

Oops, somebody must have lied

Yesterday the Inspecting Judge of Prisons, Nathan Erasmus, said that Schabir Shaik was not receiving special treatment merely because he spent the last month in hospital instead of the prison where he was sentenced to stay for 15 years. According to the Mail & Guardian:

“We checked the prison and medical records to confirm why Mr Shaik had been sent to hospital,” he said, adding that he had contacted Shaik’s own physician, Dr Somalingum Ponnusamy, for confirmation about his condition. Ponnusamy’s opinion was that Shaik’s condition warranted hospital treatment. Erasmus said that while Shaik was being held in a single ward, it was “equipped only with the bare essentials”, and he was under constant guard.

But this morning the Minister of Correctional Services, Ngcondo Balfour, announced that Shaik had been sent back to prison. The only possible reason for this move is surely that the Minister decided – after perusing the relevant reports – that Shaik was not sick enough to stay in Hospital.

This means that either Shaik’s doctor or Judge Erasmus or the Minister has been lying to the public. They can’t all be correct. Unfortunately the Minister is refusing to make public the report on which he based his decision.

This episode seems to have left a black mark against the name of the Inspector of Prisons. He was either far too credulous of Shaik’s doctor or he deliberately protected a politically connected prisoner from media criticism. Either way, his credibility is basically hovering just above that of the Public Protector at the moment and it will take some doing for me to take him seriously in future.

And doctor Ponnusamy? Questions suggest themselves: How close a friend is he of the Shaik family? Did he receive any money from said family for his diagnosis and if so, what amount? Should he perhaps be reported to the relevant authority?

Maybe he is a good man who had the wool pulled over his eyes or maybe the Minister is to blame, but how can we tell if the Minister is not telling us why he sent Shaik back to prison. So much for open and accountable government.

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