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Balfour’s application dismissed by judge

Resource type: News


A bid to block the personal release of a report on the death of an HIV-positive prisoner by Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour was dismissed in the North Gauteng High Court on Friday.

Pretoria Judge Brian Southwood dismissed the application for leave to appeal a January judgment with costs.

Southwood earlier ruled that a six-page document, by former Inspecting Judge of Prisons Nathan Erasmus, be released to the Treatment Action Campaign.

He also authorised the inspectorate to do the same and it complied.

The document contained the inspectorate’s probe into the death of the prisoner, known only as MM, at Durban’s Medium B correctional centre in 2006.

However, Balfour sought to challenge the ruling.

Speaking outside court, executive member of the TAC Mark Heywood said the application was a waste of taxpayers money as the report had already been made public.

“By appealing he was adding to the expense and further defeating the process of the Access to Information Act,” he said.

Heywood said it appeared that Balfour was trying to save face as the January ruling indicated that he had lied and put his credibility into disrepute.

“We believe that this particular prisoner died of negligence,” said Heywood.

While satisfied with the outcome of Friday’s application, Heywood said the TAC felt the actual report should have “gone further”.

“We are very disappointed with the report itself. We feel that Judge Erasmus did not use fully the powers that were available to him to fully investigate the case.

“In certain respects he fudged what should have been clear,” he said.

MM died after antiretrovirals were allegedly administered too late.

In the report, Erasmus said MM would have at least qualified for ARV treatment in terms of his medical condition in 2003.

However for various reasons it was only in early July 2006 that he was put on the drugs.

By then it was apparent that his condition was irreversible, and he was hospitalised.

“The department of correctional services had then put into motion an application for medical release,” Erasmus said.

“This was recommended and forwarded to the office of the minister of correctional services for finalisation. However, before a decision could be made, he [MM] passed on.”

Erasmus said awareness of and responses to the HIV/Aids pandemic should be heightened in the department.

He also said the legislative framework relating to medical releases should be revisited.

It was known immediately known if Balfour’s counsel would seek leave to appeal in a higher court. They would not speak to the media. – Sapa

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