HEAD OF PRISON FOR 15 YEARS
The registration plate on his car bears the name of American gangster Al Capone who dominated crime in Chicago in the late 1920s.
Each day he can be seen driving in and out of the prison yard – much to the amusement of especially new offenders.
After all, he is head of the prison.
Well, nothing wrong with that and there is absolutely nothing the department of correctional services (DCS) can do about it.
“The department does not have a policy that deals with the personalisation of number plates on private vehicles of its staff members”.
This is the story of Sam Maphuthuma, the man who has been in charge of the Johannesburg Medium C prison, otherwise known as Sun City, for the past 15 years.
Again, the DCS sees no red lights flashing when one man could occupy such a hot position for such a long time, according to departmental spokesman Mocheta Monama.
Monama says heads of centre posts are permanent positions.
He did not add that the department does not have a policy for evaluation and rotation of heads.
“Like many other heads of centres around the country, Mr Maphuthuma was lawfully appointed to the post.
“There is no determination prescribing timelines,” says Monama.
Taking into account Monama’s response and contrary to what Maphuthuma’s surname suggests (the one who is in a haste), there is no indication he will vacate the post soon.
In the process, says some of the warders, Maphuthuma has become “untouchable’, which perhaps explains why he likens himself to the American gangster.
The officers have very few compliments about Maphuthuma’s 15-year reign.
His management style, they say, has been characterised by allegations of favouritism and general disregard of staff wellbeing and manipulation of leave forms.
This has led to Maphuthuma and his select group being branded as the “Guptas”, in relation to the controversial Indian family accused of being engaged in corrupt activities on politicians in order to obtain tenders.
“It’s either you part of the “Guptas” or your stay in the prison will be miserable,” says one officer speaking on condition of anonymity.
Those in Maphuthuma’s favour are said to be rewarded, for example, from benefitting from the departments’ merit awards performance appraisals.
“To gain any recognition for good work and promotional mobility and protection depends on being connected to the right people,” said a warder.
Other allegations levelled against Maphuthuma is that he is not consistent in applying the department’s code regards the carrying of cellphones by officers.
Of interest is that select treatment has been meted out at officers found violating the cellphone policy.
Some of the officers found with cellphones when working within the centre have escaped with a slap in the wrist, while female warder Ms Lele Rampai was not so lucky as she was dismissed.
Apparently Ms Lele’s pictures and chats were found in an offender’s cellphone, something which is prohibited by the department.
Asked to comment, Monama said the department has a policy in place which regulates the carrying of cellphones.
“The head of the centre is the delegated authority who determines the need thereof,” he said.
Shockingly is allegations that some of the cellphones confiscated from offenders have or are being used outside the prison like that of an offender whose name is known to Abaphenyi.
In one instance an offender’s phone was confiscated which apparently had chats with a senior female warder but has since disappeared.
The offender had allegedly refused to unlock the phone to verify the pictures.
Concerned warders say the rate at which female correctional officials working in male correctional centres get romantically involved with male offenders is on the increase.
“Some of the female warders even get into fisticuffs over the offenders,” a warder said.
Monama said in terms of departmental policies and the code of conduct, all officials are prohibited from having relationships with offenders.
“Officials are further discouraged on a daily basis during morning parades, departmental events, meetings and other forms of gathering to refrain from having relationships with offenders by outlining the dangers linked with those relations and also the consequences,’ he said.
It is worth noting that during the incarceration of singer Molemo Jub Jub Maarohanye in 2013 the question of drug trafficking and cellphones within the prison complex received huge publicity and the department promised to conduct an investigation.
Abaphenyi has found out that the investigation was “stolen”, but Monama denied this, saying “the investigation was discontinued due to a lack of evidence”.
He said no one including Jub Jub could be linked to the package which had drugs inside.
Further shocking is that a complaint lodged in 2016 against Maphuthuma and a Ms Tlhapi for allegedly manipulating leave administration records is still to be completed.
Apparently both Maphuthuma and Ms Tlhapi were booked on duty while on holiday.
In Maphuthuma’s case, he was apparently booked on duty while he was away preparing for the burial of his father.
Monama confirmed the allegations and said an internal investigation had been instituted to establish the facts in this regard.
“The investigation is ongoing,’ he said.
Attempts by Abaphenyi to have permission to interview Maphuthuma about the ongoings at Medium C were thwarted.
“No,” said Monama.
‘The department has an appointed spokesperson. You can approach Mr Maphuthuma on a personal basis. The department cannot approve for him to be interviewed,” he said.