'No great shakes that Shaik moved'

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

The Department of Correctional Services has defended the transfer of Schabir Shaik from Westville Prison to Qalakabusha, near Empangeni, in KwaZulu-Natal.

The department insists Shaik is not receiving preferential treatment.

Shaik was on Thursday supposed to start serving his 15-year term in Durban's infamous Westville Prison, renowned for its overcrowding, but he was whisked off to the new Qalakabusha Prison, which has fewer prisoners in each cell.

Yesterday correctional services spokesman Manelisi Wolela said the criticism was baseless.

"Who said Qalakabusha was better? Prison is a correctional facility and it makes no sense to allege that he is getting preferential treatment."

He said the decision to transfer a prisoner to a particular prison was based on the rating of the offender.

"Each offender is rated according to the nature of the crime committed.

"Some make applications to be taken to prisons nearer their families and if approved, they are moved. It's an operational process," he said.

Ministerial spokesman Luphumzo Kebeni said Shaik had been transferred because of his profile scores.

"Shaik is in with other offenders who committed similar crimes," he said.

"Also the fact that he is not a violent criminal and that he was a first time offender qualified him to be moved."

Schabir's brother, Mo, said that it was nonsense to say that his brother was receiving better treatment than other prisoners.

"Prison is prison. It's no place like home and to me they are all the same. So to say that he was treated differently is nonsense," said Mo.

Though the two are both correctional facilities, Qalakabusha is better equipped than Westville. It has high-tech security, a library and a gym.

Cells are shared by two inmates, but can accommodate four if necessary. Cells at Westville are shared by 40 to 50 inmates, though they were built to accommodate 18.

In Qalakabusha, the cells have two tables, two chairs and a bathroom; in Westville there is just one toilet and a sink.

Meanwhile, reports that Jacob Zuma would be visiting Shaik in prison were denied by an anonymous confidante, who said that Zuma was currently out of the country.

But it was reported that the relationship between Zuma and Shaik is continuing because he is said to have called Shaik minutes after he was sent to prison.