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Written by Lawyers for Human Rights


Country South Africa

June 10, 2020

Update 2020.07.07: Justice and George have been released today from jail.
“The detention of the Applicants is declared unlawful and unconstitutional”, read the full judgement.

Watch video of the release.

Two waste pickers in Centurion (Gauteng Province, South Africa) were arrested during Alert Level 5 lockdown in April 2020 for allegedly violating the lockdown regulations by venturing out in the vicinity of Centurion to collect recyclable materials in order to make an income.

They are still incarcerated at the Kgosi Mampuru II facility in the City of Tswhane. They have been there for the last two months now.

What makes the matter worse is the fact that one of the members is HIV positive and he also has TB and when last we spoke to him he told us that he was not getting his ARV medicine and he was also not getting enough food.

The reason they were arrested was because they dared to venture out with their trolley to find recyclable material in the hopes of selling it in order to get food during lockdown level 5 when Government was not on the ground to support these Workers. They were stuck in their compounds/informal settlements without food.

Since then, Minster Lamola and the President released 19,000 non-violent inmates to curb the spread of COVID19 in the correction facilities, yet these two honest workers are still incarcerated.

This is the letter that Lawers for Human Rights sent to the Minister of Justice, the National Commissioner of Correctional Services, the Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services and the Pretoria Area Commissioner on June 3rd, 2020 (download original PDF document).

Mushroom compound is the place where the Bagerezi have gathered.

June 3rd, 2020


  • Mr. Ronald Lamola, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services
    C/o Ms. Delsy Moraba and Ms. Zanele Ndlovu
  • Mr. Arthur Frazer, National Commissioner of Correctional Services
    C/o Ms. Thembi Gwamanda and Mr. Mandla Mkabela
  • Ms. Grace Molatedi, Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services (Gauteng Province)
  • Mr. Tlabo Thokolo, Pretoria Area Commissioner
  • Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre, Pretoria

Dear Sir/Madam,


  1. We refer to the above matter and confirm that we act on behalf of Mr. Justice Shabangu and Mr. George Mjolso Mphotshe who are self-employed as informal waste reclaimers (commonly referred to as “waste pickers”) based in Centurion, Gauteng Province.
  2. We are advised that our clients were arrested during Alert Level 5 lockdown in or about April 2020 for allegedly violating the lockdown regulations by venturing out in the vicinity of Centurion to collect recyclable materials in order to make an income.
  3. We are further advised that our clients are now detained at Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Facility. But, in spite of several queries we have been unable to get access to our clients or to ascertain why they have been detained. We demand to know, inter alia:
    3.1. what charges they are facing if any; and
    3.2. why they have been detained at the facility (i.e.whether they have failed to pay bail or whether they are awaiting trial etc.)We are particularly concerned because one of our clients is HIV+ and has TB but we are informed that he has not had access to his medication since he has been detained.
  4. We contacted the facility telephonically today and we were instructed that no one is currently allowed access to the facility under any circumstance. We are of the view that this is unconstitutional as Section 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa confirms that all arrested, detained and accused persons have a right to consult with a legal practitioner. If it is impossible for us to access our clients at the facility due to the prevailing circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 lockdown, we request that you urgently facilitate an arrangement for us to consult with our clients in an isolated and safe space at the facility or to consult with our clients telephonically/electronically on an arranged date and time.
  5. We trust you find the above in order and request an urgent response by close of business today i.e. Wednesday, 3 June 2020, failing which we hold instructions to institute legal proceedings against the Department of Correctional Services for the relevant relief.

Yours sincerely,

Lawyers for Human Rights