Westville prisoner threatens to jump off roof top if minister does not listen to his grievances

2013-11-01 00:00

DRAMA unfolded at the Durban Westville prison yesterday afternoon when a Medium B section prisoner made his way to the prison roof top and demanded that Correctional Services Minister Sbu Ndebele come and address him.

It is believed that the prisoner’s actions followed a number of inmates being transferred to prisons in outlying areas, in a bid to alleviate overcrowding at Westville Prison.

In an e-mail, Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) provincial administrative secretary Siyanda Mshengu said there was a crisis at the prison, and that the Medium B section was crowded with police. Mshengu had no further information on the incident.

An off-duty prison warder, who is not in a position to talk to the media, said an inmate threatened to jump to his death if the minister did not come and listen to his grievances.

Initially it was thought there was a hostage situation unfolding at the facility.

The warder said police negotiators were handling the situation. The latter could not be officially confirmed as provincial police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker declined to comment. He referred the reporter to Correctional Services.

Acting regional head of Correctional Services Nombuso Mkhize said the inmate was deranged, before her phone was cut off. By the time of going to press, she could not be contacted again as both her numbers were on voicemail.

Yesterday’s incident follows the raids in Medium B section prison cells in the past three weeks, and the confiscation of more than 1 000 cellphones, drugs and other illegal items. On Tuesday, prison boss Mnikelwa Nxele said some inmates were transferred to other less crowded facilities. He said more would be transferred as a measure to deal with overcrowding at the Medium B section of the facility.

Twelve prison warders have since been suspended for their suspected involvement in corrupt activities with the inmates. Some of the suspended officers’ involvement was linked to the smuggling of contraband to inmates through information retrieved from the confiscated cellphones.

At the time, Nxele said more warders were under investigation and more suspensions were imminent.

At the time of going to press, it was still unclear whether the inmate had been brought down from the roof.

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