Joy among fellow inmates and wardens at the news of former president’s arrival at Estcourt correctional services centre
No special treatment as Msholozi is given his orange suit on first morning
It took almost 18 years for the government to build the Estcourt correctional centre in KwaZulu-Natal.
For eight of those years Jacob Zuma was president of SA.
In the early hours of yesterday morning the prison opened its doors for him to begin his 15-month jail term for contempt of court.
Inside, word began spreading among inmates around midnight when they saw car lights and TV cameras stationed outside the main gate.
“We were excited and even the wardens were celebrating,” a prisoner who cannot be named said yesterday.
“Finally, we have our own high-profile inmate among us. It’s a fairly safe and clean prison that Zuma built for us and now we will share it with him.”
On his arrival Zuma was booked into the hospital section of the prison where he will spend the next 14 days isolating, in line with Covid-19 protocols.
Department of correctional services (DCS) spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said the former president’s general health, mental health, suicide risk and safety risk was being assessed before he could be classified and placed in a suitable cell or centre.
The hospital wing is fully equipped to cater for various medical emergencies.
Most of the centre’s 513 prisoners are housed in communal units that take eight steel single beds or 16 bunk beds while the nine single cells are mainly reserved to isolate sickly inmates or those who are illdisciplined.
“Communal cells have a TV, radio and a public phone which are shared,” said Nxumalo.
The wake-up call for inmates is at 5am daily and they are expected to make their beds, shower and have breakfast before heading to either production workshop at 7am where they hone their skills in woodwork and bricklaying.
Others go for adult basic education and training classes.
“Unlike Kgosi Mampuru prison [in Tshwane] that was built by apartheid to simply house inmates, this one is aimed at rehabilitating them. So, we encourage them to improve their skills by taking up classes.
“This centre’s intake is very small and that is because we want to better manage them,” said Nxumalo.
Depending on how Zuma will be classified, he will only be entitled to four visits or phone calls per month if he is deemed a maximum risk inmate.
However, he will be eligible for six visits or calls if he is in the lower risk categories.
The inmates are expected back in their cells by 3pm for supper between 4pm and 5pm.
Yesterday, justice minister Ronald Lamola said Zuma would be eligible for parole after serving nearly four months of his sentence. He will have to apply.
Head of the centre, Nompumelelo Radebe and DCS national acting chief operations commissioner Phiko Mbambo told the media that Zuma was handed his orange uniform in the morning and that he would not get any preferential treatment.
“We take full responsibility for his safety and security so there won’t be any special bodyguards for him because we have our own security officers,” said Mbambo.