Durban - The head of Westville Prison’s Medium B section has, for now, won a legal battle to remain in his post after claiming that an inmate’s alleged influence with political and Correctional Services officials was behind the decision to move him.
The Durban Labour Court had granted an order in favour of Mfanafuthi Nxumalo, who had brought an urgent application to stop the regional commissioner of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Correctional Services, Mnikelwa Nxele, from transferring him to Pietermaritzburg.
However, Nxele said yesterday the department had served a notice of intention to appeal on Nxumalo’s attorneys.
“In terms of internal departmental policy, more than 50 officials within the department are being reassigned because of various general reasons,” he said, explaining Nxumalo’s transfer.
“The reassignments are part of a process that is aimed at strengthening our centres across the province.”
In court papers, Nxumalo said he believed the bid to move him was manipulated by disgraced former provincial prisons boss, Russell Ngubo, a one-time Stoffelton ANC branch chairman who was jailed after being convicted in 2005 of the murder of an IFP leader.
In his affidavit, he said that Ngubo, because of his political connections, demanded certain privileges and status, which were not his due.
He said after he spurned Ngubo’s requests, the inmate told him last September that his “transfer is already arranged”.
“I verily believe that Ngubo has access, telephonically and otherwise, to high-ranking officials, including those within the Correctional Services department,” Nxumalo said.
Medium B, Westville is a large maximum security prison housing 4 100 prisoners, while Pietermaritzburg is a much smaller facility housing 2 700 prisoners.
“In terms of the status and prestige, and further career prospects that I currently enjoy as Head of Medium B, a move to the Pietermaritzburg prison would constitute, on a proper construction, a demotion,” said Nxumalo.
In November, Nxumalo said he was called to a meeting with Nxele, who informed him that he was going to be transferred.
“I remonstrated with the commissioner and indicated that my personal circumstances were such as to militate against a move to Pietermaritzburg,” Nxumalo said.
These circumstances included that Nxumalo’s wife works in Pinetown and his two children attend Durban schools.
His family has also started building a home in Durban.
Then in December, Nxumalo again had a meeting with the regional commissioner.
This time he was allegedly told that Ngubo had been complaining about his treatment of him.
“I advised the commissioner that I had first learnt from Ngubo regarding my transfer. The commissioner denied that Ngubo had communication with him,” Nxumalo said.
The commissioner is alleged to have assured Nxumalo that he would not be transferred if he was unwilling, but Nxumalo said he received a letter on January 8 confirming his impending transfer.
His lawyers responded to the letter on January 22, but are yet to receive a response.
Nxumalo said he last met Nxele on January 28, when he again denied the transfer was related to the issue of Ngubo.
He said he was told that the transfer was so he could “work in a relaxed environment”.
On February 12, Nxumalo received a letter informing him that he was expected to report to his new post at Pietermaritzburg Prison with immediate effect.
Nxumalo said he believed there were various statutory instruments that were applicable to his employment within the Department of Correctional Services; and that the action to transfer him was in contravention of those statutes.
The court, presided over by acting Judge Mahendra Chetty, granted the interdict on Wednesday last week preventing both the national commissioner and the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for correctional services from implementing the decision to transfer Nxumalo and replace him, and from taking any disciplinary action against him for his failure to report for duty at Pietermaritzburg.
Nxumalo returned to work at Westville Prison yesterday, but Nxele told the Daily News that he hoped Nxumalo would be open to discussing the matter.
“We wish to resolve this issue amicably,” he said.