'No mercy' for errant prison officials as Lamola cracks the whip

2019-07-03 18:39
National Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser and Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola. (Jan Gerber/News24)

National Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser and Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola. (Jan Gerber/News24)

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New Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says there will be no mercy for prison officials caught smuggling contraband, as his department probes a number of institutions around the country.

A senior manager for corporate affairs in the Department of Correctional Services' Durban management area was the first official suspended under Lamola's watch, it was announced in Cape Town on Wednesday.

This after two videos emerged from Durban's infamous Westville prison.

In the one video a convicted murderer appeared to be using drugs and in the other officials handed weapons to inmates to fight each other.

Westville isn't the only prison under "ministerial scrutiny".

Lamola is also having a look at St Albans Correctional Facility after "several incidents which has not been suitably dealt with".

"The behaviour of inmates at this particular centre is worrying and this is clearly illustrated by the number of assault cases that get reported continuously," Lamola said.

He said on a recommendation by National Commissioner Arthur Fraser - who was sitting next to him - he appointed new interim heads at the maximum centre and the remand centre.

No mercy spared

The Goedemoed Correctional Facility, where an official was killed by an inmate in March, is also on his radar.

"We have a preliminary investigation, which has led to opening a separate case with the South African Police Services. An official has been suspended in relation to this matter. More information will be revealed as and when SAPS finalise their investigations," he said.

"Our investigation has also revealed that in some instances that there has been a severe lapse in classification of inmates at this facility. As a result all the officials at an advisory level have been given notices of suspension."

He said the department will engage organised labour and the National Prosecuting Authority on a zero-tolerance policy on smuggling contraband.

"Errant officials involved in the smuggling craft, and other offences, will not be spared any mercy," he warned.

"These officials will be summarily dismissed, and if a member of the public is found with contraband they must be subjected to a very harsh sentence."

Westville incidents

In the Westville incidents, Lamola said both investigations revealed that there "was a complete dereliction of duty and or maladministration" at the Durban management area.

"As a result, the National Commissioner has recommended that the senior manager responsible for corporate affairs, Mr Mohan, be placed under suspension."

Mr DJ Makhaye has been appointed as the acting Area Commissioner.

"Accountability and consequence management has to be effected within the Department of Correctional Services... so we can deal with the perception of impunity and errant behaviour, be it by inmates, officials or contractors and members of the public who frequent our facilities."

The first incident, that of inmates fighting, took place on July 29, 2018. The officials involved were suspended on August 3.

"However, this suspension was lifted [on] 23 October 2018 and the implicated officials were alternatively placed so they could not work directly with inmates," Lamola said.

He said an investigation was done and submitted to the delegated authority. "And sadly, nothing was done beyond that."

'Drug use' episode

He said the second incident occurred on June 14, 2019.

The investigation identified the three offenders in the video as Sanele Nyalane, serving 15 years sentence for robbery with aggravating circumstances, Ruwain Meer, serving life imprisonment for murder, and Langa Gumede, serving 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances. They were incarcerated at Durban Medium B at Unit C2.

A search of the identified cell yielded the following: 41 mandrax tablets, 334 units of dagga, 7 packages of dagga, 6 cellphones, 4 cellphone charges, 8 earpieces, 4 sim cards, R23 cash, a smoking pipe and a memory stick.

The three were then transferred to South Africa's only ultramax correctional facility, eBongweni in Kokstad.

Lamola said this prison isn't only for hardened criminals, but also for "inmates with extreme behavioural challenges".

Read more on:    ronald lamola  |  prison  |  correctional services
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