10 days with no water in prison

2015-03-16 00:00

“THIS is like hell. It’s a graveyard for us.”

That’s how a man who claimed he is a prisoner at Pietermaritzburg’s New Prison described their lives without water for 10 days.

Yesterday was the 10th day that the prison has been without water, ­leaving prisoners fearful they could get sick due to malnutrition and unsanitary facilities.

A caller who said he was a prisoner, but refused to disclose his name, said prisoners are being fed dry brown bread for their meals as prison catering staff are unable to cook or clean the tableware.

He said toilets have run dry, leaving prisoners searching for places to ­defecate. This, along with bathroom facilities being at a minimum, has left prisoners and some ­wardens questioning the hygiene of the building.

The man said he has not relieved himself for five days now. According to the man, during the water cut their daily meals consist of five slices of dry brown bread and tea. “Lots of ­inmates just aren’t showering and we cannot use the toilets either. They are findings corners and places in the courtyard to defecate or are just piling their waste in the toilets. I’ve been holding it in for five days now,” he said.

“Prisoners are getting sick. There are flies ­everywhere and the building is reeking.”

A prison warden who asked not to be named confirmed the prisoners’ woes. “If prisoners in Zimbabwe have rioted about bad food I don’t know what these offenders are going to do after just being fed dry bread only. They are not even giving them fruit to make up for it. Thousands of prisoners with no sanitation and water can only lead to disease,” he said.

South African Human Rights Commission spokesperson Isaac ­Mangena said water is a basic need and a right for everyone.

“Regardless of the crimes they committed before, they are protected by our Constitution so the problem should be rectified as soon as possible.”

Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Thulani Mdluli was approached for comment about what was causing the water shortage but he said yesterday that he was unable to comment on such short notice and he would respond to The Witness’s inquiries today.

ALONG with the prisoners, residents in and around ­Pietermaritzburg have been struggling with water cuts as well.

One Thornville resident, Isabella Harding, said they have not had any water since Thursday because the Thornville reservoir has allegedly run dry.

“I’ve got to drive all the way into Pietermaritzburg to buy water. We have animals on our farms that need drinking water as well, not just us,” Harding said.

Another resident from Clarendon who also has no water, Peter Bristow, spotted a leaking water mains near the Botanic Gardens.

“It is a terrible waste of treated water,” Bristow said.

Water tankers were making rounds there yesterday. There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that copper pipes from the pressure valves had been stolen near the Botanical Gardens.

The water supply was restored late yesterday.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

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