We were tortured by prison officials, prisoner tells Gauteng High Court

2019-11-14 17:46
Mthokozisi Sithole, one of five inmates suing the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services for alleged assault and torture, was cross-examined in the Gauteng High Courtin Johannesburg on Wednesday. (Zoë Postman, GroundUp)

Mthokozisi Sithole, one of five inmates suing the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services for alleged assault and torture, was cross-examined in the Gauteng High Courtin Johannesburg on Wednesday. (Zoë Postman, GroundUp)

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Dragged into an office, beaten and given shocks.

According to Mthokozisi Sithole this is what prison officials allegedly did to him at Leeuwkop Maximum Correctional Centre because they suspected he had a mobile phone in his cell.

Sithole was being cross-examined in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday, GroundUp reports.

He is one of five inmates suing the minister of justice and correctional services, alleging assault and torture.

Testifying on Monday, he recalled that on August 10, 2014, another inmate in his cell, Xolani Zulu, in a protest against collective punishment, jammed their cell door to prevent prison officials from entering.

Zulu had complained about the collective punishment but received no reply from officials.

On Tuesday, Sithole told the court the inmates in the cell had held a meeting the night before the incident. He said they did not understand why they were being punished collectively.

"Everyone contributed in that meeting… I said we've  been charged with something that I don't know… My file [record] is getting dirty for something that I don't know about," Sithole added.

The next morning, after the prison officials called a locksmith to open the jammed door, members of the emergency security team arrived and he was hit with a baton as he exited the cell.

Sithole said his name was then called from a list of people suspected of possessing mobile phones. An official slapped him and dragged him to an office. Some of the other plaintiffs were already there. He was beaten and given shocks. An official stepped on the prisoners' necks when they were lying on the floor.

During cross-examination, advocate Marumo Moerane, for the minister of justice and correctional services, said the version that prison officials stepped on Sithole's neck and assaulted him was a fabrication by him and Zulu.

Moerane added that after the alleged incident, Sithole had not told the health professional examining him about any neck injury nor had he mentioned it in his statement.

"I put it to you Mr Sithole that you did not tell a soul … and that it is completely untrue. If you had reported this to Dr [Sindisiwe] Van Zyl, she would have recorded it."

Sithole said he had told Van Zyl he had some pain in his neck, adding he did not know why it was not recorded.

"What I'm telling the court today is what happened," he said.

Moerane then put it to Sithole that the official, who he had said assaulted him, had not been in the office that day.

Sithole replied that this was untrue.

Judge Ellem Jacob Francis is presiding and the plaintiffs are represented by Lawyers for Human Rights.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  assault
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