Prison shooting drama

2013-01-29 00:00

A TOP KwaZulu-Natal Correctional Services official is in hot water after allegedly assaulting a prison warder for failing to carry out an order to shoot a colleague at Sevontein Prison last week.

According to sources at the prison, the official had ordered the victim to shoot at a fleeing colleague, and he obliged by letting off two shots, but missed on both occasions. He was allegedly assaulted for his poor marksmanship.

The sources said the drama started when the official, whose name is known to The Witness, paid a surprise visit to the prison at 11 pm on Thursday and was in turn surprised when he allegedly caught an off-duty warder stealing government diesel.

The official apparently became suspicious when he saw a private car parked at the prison depot for buses and trucks. He and his bodyguards approached the car and found an off-duty warder with a 20 litre container filled with diesel.

The sources said theft of diesel from buses and trucks had become a big problem at this Elandskop prison.

The bodyguards allegedly pointed firearms at the off-duty warder, but he turned and hightailed it out of there.

Unable to catch up with the fleet-footed warder, the official allegedly ordered another warder who was standing guard at the gate to shoot his fleeing colleague.

“The warder at the gate shot twice and missed, and the official kicked him around,” said one source.

That warder has since reported a case of common assault to the police.

Police spokesperson Joey Jeevan confirmed that the police were investigating a case of common assault against a senior official, but said she could not confirm the name as the official had not been charged yet

The official’s late-night visit came a day after high-profile prisoner Russel Ngubo, the former head of the Pietermaritzburg New Prison, was transferred there from Westville Prison. He was also allegedly transferred there around midnight on Wednesday.

Three sources, who are prison officials, said both the transfer and the visit were a surprise as the head of the centre was not notified in advance.

One source said: “He and his bodyguard had guns. They could also shoot the fleeing warder themselves, but instead they chose to give that order, a wrong order, to another warder and then assaulted him.”

“When he arrived at the prison, he did not follow any of the protocols, he did not sign the register as an official and he refused to leave his weapons at the gate like he is supposed to,” said the source.

“We suspect he was only here to see Ngubo who also arrived in the dead of night the day before. He has been here once before with [the Minister of Correctional Services, Sbu Ndebele] and we believe they were here to visit Sifiso Zulu [the Durban socialite jailed for culpable homicide after an accident inwhich two people died in 2008]. Otherwise he never comes even when there are problems.”

They said Ngubo’s transfer looked suspicious and the fact that he was being kept in the more comfortable hospital wing made it even more so.

Another source said: “The procedure in prisons is that the area commissioner calls the head of the centre [prison] to tell them they are bringing a prisoner. This could be because they want to bring the prisoner closer to his family.”

“If that prison is already full, the head of the centre will transfer another prisoner out, like an exchange of prisoners. That did not happen here,” said the source.

Ngubo was transferred from Westville prison where he had spent more than 10 years for the murder of an IFP member. The Sunday Tribune reported last year that Ngubo allegedly abused warders, kept a cell phone and made regular trips out of prisons in violation of the Correctional Services laws.

National Commissioner of Correctional Services Tom Moyane said he was not aware of the matter and directed all questions to Nontsikelelo Jolingana, the chief operating officer to whom the official reports.

Jolingana said: “If the matter is reported to us we will investigate … any employee who has been assaulted has a right to lay a charge.”

Logan Maistry, Ndebele’s spokesperson, said these were allegations at this stage and were “departmental operational matters”.

He said Ndebele never visited Zulu specifically in prison.

“He went to the prison last year and it was not to visit Zulu, he was there to look at the farm [they have there] and other projects.”

Kwenza Nxele of Popcru said they had not been informed of the matter. “All we can say is that no one is allowed to assault anyone at work.”

Chairperson of the Correctional Services committee Vincent Smith said there can be no justification for the incident.

“While we do not get involved on the day-to-day running of the department, we will be interested to see how this matter pans out.”

In August 2011 the official was suspended from his position after an alleged rift between him and the then Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula. He was later reinstated.

When contacted for comment the official said he needed to consult his spokespersons and had not responded by the time of going to press.

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