Denied ARVs, prisoner sets himself alight

2010-07-08 00:00

A PRISONER tried to commit suicide by setting himself alight at Ncome Prison in Vryheid on Tuesday night.

A source at the prison said the prisoner was transferred to the prison from the Pietermaritzburg New Prison on Friday.

“At this stage we don’t know what he was arrested for or why he had been transferred, but were concerned after noticing that he was reserved in a way that is not normal for prisoners. We then received the horrific news today that he had set himself alight,” said the source.

According to the source, the prisoner is on anti-retroviral drugs. When he got to the prison, his medical file was said to be missing and he was denied his medication.

On Tuesday night the man took his prison blankets and clothing and set himself alight.

“Warders on duty heard the commotion and luckily for him the fire was doused before extensive damage was done. Although he survived, it is still a concern that inmates are treated this way in our prisons,” said the source.

Vryheid area commissioner Director Japie Taljaard confirmed the incident and said it is still under investigation.

He said the prisoner suffered minor burns to his hands and face and is recovering at the prison’s medium B-section hospital.

“I spoke to the inmate this morning and he just said he had problems and would not say anything further. I was not aware that he was on medication and I have not seen his medical file as yet, so I wouldn’t know his health status,” said Taljaard.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) national spokesperson Norman Mampane said he will get to the bottom of the matter.

“I can tell you that we have been receiving reports that incidents of denying inmates their anti-retroviral drugs is growing throughout the country. Just today I was informed of one incident in Limpopo and our officials will investigate.

“Denying inmates these drugs is unconstitutional and Popcru condemns any form of unethical conduct by our members.

“Should the investigations conclude that there was any wrongdoing by our members, heads will roll,” said Mampane.

Treatment Action Campaign spokesperson Zonke Ndlovu said authorities need to protect inmates.

“This is not constitutional. Last month I received a report from a Newcastle inmate that he was also denied anti-retrovirals. Why? What is this exactly leading to? We will consult our national office and necessary steps will be taken,” said Ndlovu.

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