Prison to probe shaving of Shembe

2013-04-20 00:00

A REPORT that Westville Prison warders forcibly shaved the heads of four prisoners, violating their religious beliefs, was dismissed as an exaggeration yesterday.

The KwaZulu-Natal Commissioner of Correctional Services, Mnikelwa Nxele, was reacting to a newspaper report alleging a near riot at the prison after warders had shaved the inmates’ heads.

Some of the prisoners are members of the Shembe faith, which frowns on shaving.

Nxele added: “We have, however, established a team that will investigate whether some of the people of Shembe [faith] were shaved by the guards … I hope to get the report on the incident soon.”

He said the incident should not detract from officials’ efforts to fight crime in the prison. Whether some prisoners’ heads were shaved was not the real issue.

“They are just trying to divert attention. The correctional officers were searching and they found what they were looking for.”

He said the officers recovered about 47 cellphones, chargers, pornographic movies, DVDs, a large quantity of Mandrax and whoonga in the cells.

“If you could be invited there, you would be shocked at what we found. These people are … complaining that four people were violated by being shaved … these are just attempts to distract the officers from doing their jobs.”

Nxele said most of the illegal items were brought in by prisoners’ relatives, “and they go through sometimes because there are officers who are not being vigilant and at times there are officers who allow themselves to be used”.

Asked about the threat of violence from prisoners, Nxele said the prison officials were monitoring the situation but were confident nothing would happen.

“Those are just claims by people who saw the opportunity and used it to push their agendas.”


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