The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) lashed out at the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) on Monday after an official was stabbed in the neck and an inmate was killed at St Albans Prison in the Eastern Cape on Sunday.
Popcru said the department had failed to address violent altercations in the prison system.
"Popcru finds it enraging the inaction demonstrated by the Department of Correctional Services in addressing the long-standing challenges around fatal altercations that have been taking place across correctional centres on a regular basis," the union's spokesperson, Richard Mamabolo, said in a statement on Monday.
According to Mamabolo, an official at the correctional centre was stabbed in the neck while the officials and eight others were counting a group of 403 inmates and preparing to feed them.
"Throughout this altercation, the remaining eight officials survived through sheer luck, while the inmate carrying the knife ended up losing his life in the midst of trying to stab other officials. This took place after another female official was also stabbed last week."
Mamabolo said this was not the first incident of this nature.
"This has been a national phenomenon, and in St Albans alone, there have been 88 officials stabbed since 2010, and 145 others assaulted by various other means, bringing the number of all altercations to 232."
Mamabolo said they were disturbed by the department's response to the incident.
"They suggest that the department isn't aware of the perpetual pending risks they have placed on correctional officials by saying that they will be gathering evidence and probably deploy yet again, a national task team to stabilise operations in the centre."
He said the response from the department was "insulting to the many officials who remain traumatised by such occurrences".
"Popcru has had various engagements with the department about the seriousness of these incidents, and yet the department's responses have not been coming forth. Instead, they have resorted to short-term interventions such as temporarily deploying Emergency Support Teams (ESTs) as and when the need arises."
DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said the situation at the facility was "back to normal" on Monday. He said the injured official was stable.
Nxumalo said they noted "with regret" the allegations of staff shortages as the underlying cause of the incident.
"The official was stabbed by an inmate during breakfast yesterday morning. Serving was done cell by cell; it is, therefore, a perpetrated falsehood that nine officials were looking after 403 inmates."
He said the incident occurred in the "Medium B section and not the maximum facility".
"The maximum facility has remained stable for months following the deployment of the national task team."