No reasons given for Nxele suspension

2011-08-02 00:00

A KZN regional commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, Mnikelwa Nxele, has been suspended.

Sources at the department have blamed his suspension on tensions between him and Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, following the implementation of a seven-day work week shift system that replaced a five-day week.

Nxele, who is based in Pietermaritzburg, was suspended on July 8 and his position was filled by the acting regional commissioner, Zachariah Modise on July 11.

The minister and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) nationally agreed to the seven-day work week despite concerns by correctional officers that this could further destabilise the day-to-day running of prisons.

Sources said Nxele was suspended for challenging the minister for approving the resolution and exposing allegations of corruption at the union’s national level.

“Ever since Nxele’s suspension some women officials in his office have been questioned as to whether he had sexually harassed them.

“Could it be a case where the national office is still trying to cook up a case against Nxele after they had already suspended him?” a source asked.

Even the national director of communications at DCS, Phumlani Ximiya, did not know the reasons for the precautionary suspension of Nxele, and referred the matter to the minister’s spokesperson, Sonwabisi Mbananga.

Ximiya said he suspects that Nxele was suspended for misconduct, but could not elaborate further.

Mbananga referred the matter to the commissioner and said that it is not a ministry issue.

Nxele declined to comment, saying the department is still conducting an internal investigation.

National Popcru spokesperson Ntai Norman Mampane said, “We are also an interested party because we have been having problems with Nxele for harassing our shop stewards in KZN, but that is not the reason for his suspension.

“The department has not given us the reasons for Nxele’s suspension and that is what we need to know.”

With the approval of the new longer work week, correctional officers said staff morale is very low, and the inmates are not safe because there is a shortage of personnel and warders themselves do not feel safe inside the New Prison in Pietermaritzburg.

They said there was an incident where a social worker had complained to her superiors about her safety at New Prison because she had to be accompanied by male colleagues in a prison full of men. However, she was told to do her work and complain later. She was later stabbed with a bottle by prisoners.

In another incident, prisoners in section C — which houses maximum security inmates — told Mapisa-Nqakula they need more protection from cellmates and she allegedly promised to attend to grievances.

“She never did anything to attend to this urgent matter and as a result a prisoner was killed inside the cells by other prisoners,” a source said.

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