Prison guards suspended over inmate’s death

2008-01-23 00:00

SEVEN officials at Pietermaritzburg’s New Prison are to be suspended with immediate effect following allegations of their involvement in the death of a 28-year-old inmate last week.

The Witness was informed by Correctional Services officers last week that Senzo Zepharia Mazibuko, who was serving a sentence for robbery, was beaten to death by prison officers, allegedly acting on instructions from a senior official.

The senior official, whose name is known to The Witness, allegedly instructed that Mazibuko be “taught a lesson” following a fight with another prisoner.

Nkosinathi Nhleko, regional commissioner at the Correctional Services Department, announced yesterday that the department has launched an investigation into the circumstances around the death.

The investigation will run parallel to the ongoing police criminal investigation. Police had not made any arrests by yesterday.

Nhleko said the suspensions are in “no way a punitive measure”, but to “protect the investigation”.

The suspensions follow a preliminary investigation. This Nhleko declined to discuss, saying to do so would be “irresponsible”.

The five investigators, from outside Pietermaritzburg, will use the following terms of reference:

• if there was a fight between Mazibuko and another inmate,

• if the fight was gang related,

• if Mazibuko was assaulted by Correctional Services officers,

• if allegations that officials encouraged the assault on Mazibuko are true, and

• if Mazibuko was further assaulted after being taken to the prison’s internal hospital.

The investigation will seek to establish why the death was not reported earlier. Nhleko said that his office only got to know of the death two days after it happened.

Nhleko could not say when the investigation would be concluded, but said: “In the next two weeks there should be clarity as to where the investigation is taking us”. He promised to report back to the public.

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