No camera eyes on cons

2013-11-04 00:00

CRITICAL closed-circuit surveillance cameras and metal detectors at Durban Westville Prison, the province’s biggest correctional facility, have not worked for four years.

The Witness confirmed the existence of the serious security flaws in the same week that prison authorities announced they had found more than 1 000 cellphones among a trove of contraband on prisoners in a raid.

Authorities are still searching for a gun that they had been tipped off had been smuggled into the prison.

Prison sources told The Witness that the surveillance cameras throughout the prison have not worked for years. The Witness is aware of the exact locations of the non-functioning cameras, but has decided not to publish the details out of security considerations.

The security lapse leaves the safety of both the employees and inmates compromised, and would have contributed to the flood of contraband that has found its way into the system.

Twelve warders were suspended following the raid for their suspected involvement in smuggling banned items into the prison.

On Thursday, a prisoner escaped to the roof top of the Medium B section of the facility, demanding that Correctional Services Minister Sbu Ndebele come and listen to his grievances.

Prison officials said the prisoner had a mental condition and had since been taken to the hospital section and sedated.

Questions remain about why the security lapse has not been addressed.

The surveillance system was installed by Sondolo Integrated Technology, a subsidiary of the Bosasa Group, around 2006. The company also installed the system in other prisons around the province, including Umzinto.

However, prison sources say the surveillance system last worked in 2009, when the contract with the company hired to operate it was terminated. No new contractor has since been appointed. Since the termination of the contract, the system had stopped working at all facilities.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) KZN secretary Kwenza Nxele said security at Westville was “seriously” compromised by the lack of surveillance equipment and the alleged inefficiency of management.

He claimed prison management was using staff as scapegoats for its inefficiency.

Nxele vowed that the union would represent its suspended members during the disciplinary process.

He confirmed Popcru had received reports that CCTV cameras installed at strategic positions at Westville were not working.

“It’s not only the cameras; almost everything is not in order in that facility. For their inefficiencies, the management uses employees as shields. We need to sit down and address these issues,” said Nxele.

The union would convene a meeting with the management on Thursday to discuss all the issues affecting staff, he said.

Bosasa Group communications and human resources director Papa Leshabane referred The Witness to the Correctional Services Department for comment.

In 2001, the Jali Commission of Inquiry investigated alleged incidents of maladministration, violence, corruption, and intimidation in the Correctional Services Department.

The commission’s report, released in 2006, recommended the installation of CCTV cameras, biometric access control, walk-through metal detectors and scanners to prevent widespread abuse at the prison.

The IFP parliamentary spokesperson on correctional services, Velaphi Ndlovu, said had there been surveillance cameras, officials would be able to stop the flow of illegal items into the facility.

He called for the vetting of prison staff to be made mandatory in order to ensure better security in prisons.

“The implication of some officials and visitors in the smuggling of illegal items into that facility defeats the purpose of a prison,” he said.

Prisoner rights organisation leader Golden Miles Bhudu said he had received a number of phone calls from inmates at Westville prison who were concerned about the lack of security.

“My brothers are concerned because they are abused by fellow inmates who work with rogue warders,” he said.

Correctional Services Ministry spokesperson Logan Maistry said all programme implementation was done at regional level. He referred questions to regional commissioner Mnikelwa Nxele, who rubbished allegations of inefficiency on the part of Westville management.

The commissioner said the department was working on contracting another service provider to operate the system while transferring skills to warders.

“That was the initial plan which unfortunately did not succeed. What we need is for the [new] contracted company to teach the correctional officers how the system works, so that when the contract expires we know that we have capable people to do the job.

“The department is working on finding a service provider which can facilitate the installation of an integrated system that will connect correctional facilities throughout the country,” said the commissioner.

On the inefficiency allegations, he said: “With evidence linking these officers to the crime, where is the logic in saying they are used as scapegoats? This evidence will be tested and if officers were wrongly implicated, they will come back to work. Regardless of what our detractors are saying, we will ensure that we rid our facilities of rotten apples. Offenders cannot be rehabilitated if our own members encourage the selling and use of drugs in prisons,” he said.


Westville Prison’s infamous inmates:

. Sheryl Cwele, ex-wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, and former director of health and community at Hibiscus Coast Municipality. She and her co-accused Frank Nabolisa were convicted of using drug mules to smuggle cocaine, and were each sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment.

. Shabir Shaik, convicted in 2005 of fraud and corruption and sentenced to 15 years in jail, was in Westville Prison briefly before receiving medical parole.

. Convicted murderer Mumtaz Osman, who was convicted along with her lover Sunesh Manilall, of murdering his wife, Monika Monilall, in 2006.

. Kalisha Rajcoomar, who strangled her lover Sandesh Pooran to death on February 7, 2009, and was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment.

. Gerald Rosselloty, who was given two life terms after being found guilty of killing and setting his girlfriend Nokwazi Ntuli on fire, and the rape of a six-year-old girl.

. Nicolette Lotter (29) and her brother Hardus (23), who were convicted in March 2012 of murdering their parents Johnnie and Riekie in 2008. Nicolette’s boyfriend Mathew Naidoo (25) was convicted with them.

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