Jail luxuries claim denied

2013-05-10 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Commissioner of Correctional Services Mnikelwa Nxele is spitting mad.

While major raids on Durban’s Westville prison have unearthed pornographic DVDs, knives, cellphones, drugs and even cash, he insists that no alcohol or DStv Walkas have been discovered in the jail.

Nxele was responding to comments by National Assembly correctional services committee chairperson Vincent Smith, who on Wednesday complained that Westville inmates were quaffing expensive cognac, while watching late-night British football on their Walkas.

Smith told prison officials: “We get calls at midnight, because some are related to us … [They say] ‘No, I’m sitting here with Hennessy and a DStv Walka and I’m watching Liverpool and Arsenal’.”

However, Nxele disputed Smith’s information.

“I have been in charge of this region for five years and I was responsible for major raids conducted in the provincial prisons.

“We have never found alcohol or DStv Walkas since I have been in charge,” said Nxele.

While he disputed the specific allegations, Nxele did not dismiss the possibility that inmates might be drinking alcohol inside the prison.

During a major raid in February, he said, “knives, cellphones, dagga, whoonga, mandrax, pornographic DVDs and cash” were discovered.

He also dismissed the reported comments of another prison official, Gcinumzi Ntlakana, who told MPs that statistics showed that KwaZulu-Natal prisons suffered most from gang activities, followed by the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

“To say that KZN is the capital of gangs in prison was also not true because this was prevalent in the Western Cape,” said Nxele. He acknowledged that there were challenges with gangsters in certain sections of Westville prison, but not on the scale suggested in Parliament.

Any alleged wrongdoing by inmates should be reported for investigation to the minister of Correctional Services and the national commissioner, he said.

Nxele said he had been in Cape Town and was not sure why, if KwaZulu-Natal was discussed, he had not been invited.

In his reaction, Smith said he stood by what he had said during Wednesday’s meeting. If Nxele had a problem with what was said, he had a right to raise it during the committee’s next meeting.

“I’m not going clarify the issue of alcohol in the media, but this would be discussed in the committee.”

Smith said the committee invited the Correctional Services Department, not individuals, to its meetings. It was up to the department to decide who it should send to appear before MPs.

Smith said the issue of KZN having the most gangsters in jails had been raised by a department official.

• thobani.ngqulunga


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