Pietermaritzburg’s New Prison on verge of riot as inmates still without water

2015-03-17 00:00

THE water supply situation at Pietermaritzburg’s New Prison has reached crisis proportions, amidst fears that rioting could soon break out there.

A worn-out water pipe is suspected to be the reason that the prison has not had water for almost two weeks.

As tensions build after 13 days without ­water, family members of prisoners at Pietermaritzburg’s New Prison are concerned of an imminent prison riot.

Prisoners at the facility are starting to grow anxious as the only source of drinking water is from municipal water tankers that come around daily. However, one prisoner who asked not to be named said that not every prisoner gets to these tankers on time before they move to the next block, which is allegedly causing intense arguments and fights between prisoners over drinking water.

“Things are heating up here. The time of gang fights for reputation or ‘extra benefits’ are over. Soon we will be fighting for water to survive,” he said.

A Pietermaritzburg resident who has a cousin at the prison said she took in two 500 ml bottles of water for him to drink during visiting hours, but guards refused to let him have them.

“He told me that the only sign of water in the entire prison besides the tankers is a slowly dripping tap that takes half an hour to fill a 500 ml bottle,” she said.

According to the resident who related what her cousin told her, the toilets are not being flushed manually and the prison is reeking of rotting faeces.

“They [the prisoners] get locked up from 3 pm to 7 am the next day, sometimes with five people who have not showered in a cell for two people with one toilet,” she said.

“They are trying to be decent by not defecating in that toilet and only urinating but urine smells too. My cousin says they are on the verge of rioting,” she said.

According to a prison warden, almost half the security staff did not come to work yesterday as “they said they couldn’t shower and can’t come to work were there is no water”.

“Now the offenders are locked up in their cells the whole day with no movement or water. They have to use the toilet in the cells filled with offenders and have no water to flush it instead of using the bathrooms allocated outside,” he said.

“Death and disease is imminent in this prison and the food situation hasn’t improved either”.

He was referring to allegations that prisoners are being fed five slices of dry brown bread twice a day as their meals.

Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Thulani Mdluli admitted the problem is still persisting.

He said local municipal water tankers are supplying water daily.

Mdluli said a worn water pipe that leads to the prison is suspected to be the cause of the trouble.

“The plumber’s technical team are still busy trying to reconnect to the main system of water supply.

“We will notify you again of any progress made,” Mdluli assured.

The Witness had sent Mdluli a list of nine questions about the water shortage, most of which were not answered.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

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