Gay inmates ‘unsafe’

(iStock)
(iStock)

Two convicted murderers who are serving their sentences at New Prison fear they might be raped because they are gay.

The men brought an urgent application to the Pietermaritzburg high court on Wednesday against the minister of Justice and Correctional Services, the national commissioner of Correctional Services, area commissioner and head of New Prison.

They are asking the court to order the parties to take reasonable measures to protect their lives.

They seek an order compelling the centre to detain them in a unit that is safe, taking into account their sexuality.

And while the court decides on the matter, they are asking to be moved to single cells to deter any further sexual abuse and sexual harassment by other inmates.

Alternatively, they want to be transferred to the Westville Correctional Centre where there is a unit that accommodates gay people. No order was granted and the matter has been adjourned to next month. Sizwe Ncumatha (28) said in court papers that he is serving a 15-year sentence for murder and intimidation, while Njabulo Maphanga (33) has been sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, robbery and theft.

Ncumatha said this matter is urgent because both men’s lives are in danger, in light of threats being issued by other inmates because of their sexuality.

On a daily basis they have to endure sexual abuse and sexual harassment by other inmates, he said. In addition, both men fear they will be raped if the application is not given the urgency it requires.

Ncumatha added they have to also endure discrimination by correctional officials. He said that he had been incarcerated at the Westville Correctional Centre in a unit that accommodated gay inmates. He was then transferred to New Prison due to “security concerns”.

When he arrived, he said he wrote to the prison head requesting to see him in order to bring to his attention his sexual status. He was then put in a single unit.

In April, he brought an application to the high court after being denied access to a laptop, which he needed to use to do his online studies through the University of South Africa.

He alleges that in retaliation to that application, he was searched on a daily basis and later moved to communal cells.

It is in this unit that he and Maphanga have been enduring “sexual harassment, sexual abuse, discrimination and threats to their lives”.

Maphanga has also been writing to the prison head to be moved from the same unit but nothing is being done, said Ncumatha. He added that they are being denied a chance to freely express themselves just like any other inmate in the centre because of their sexuality.

Their constitutional rights are being infringed, said Ncumatha.

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