The affordable education loan option
Durban - A tip-off that a firearm had been smuggled into Westville Prison led to a four day lockdown of the Medium B Section.
Prisoners alleged that during the raids, which took place until Thursday, they were assaulted with batons, stripped naked and forced to flash themselves in front of other inmates.
Five bullets had been handed by prisoners to the prison management on Tuesday.
The same prisoners claimed they were brutally assaulted after management accused them of hiding a gun.
Human Rights attorney, Thema Nxingweni, said they planned opening assault charges against the prison management.
He said a possible civil suit was also on the cards.
The gun, allegedly smuggled into the section with the help of warders, has still not been found.
According to a source, the KZN correctional services regional commissioner, Mnikelwa Nxele, was tipped off about the gun, on Monday morning.
The prison’s Emergency Support Team, with Nxele, raided the section later in the day, searching prisoners, cells, the kitchen and recreational areas.
The source said that on Monday, the Emergency Support Team, recovered several cellphones.
On Tuesday, prisoners handed the five bullets to prison management which they claimed other inmates had given to them to hand in.
The prisoners said that shortly afterwards they had been accused of hiding the gun.
“Management insisted we had the gun. We denied it. They did not believe us. We were beaten with batons, kicked and booted. Many of the prisoners were admitted to the prison hospital.”
The prisoners alleged they were humiliated after they were forced to strip naked and flash themselves in front of other inmates.
“It was degrading. This happened every day during the raids. We are battered and bruised physically and emotionally.”
Nxele said he was unaware of the assault claims.
“I don’t know anything about that. I find it strange that prisoners who handed in the bullets would be assaulted. They came clean. There was no reason to beat them up.
“The use of minimum force comes into play only if circumstances permit it. This was not the case during the raids,” he said.
Nxele would not confirm the claims about the gun.
“The security unit of correctional services and other law enforcement agencies will look into the claims of the gun being in the Medium B Section,” he said.
“I can assure you that if it is in the prison, it will be retrieved before any harm can be caused.”
Derrick Mdluli, KZN chairman of Justice for Prisoners and Detainees Trust, said he had not yet spoken to the authorities.
He said if the allegations were true, it was shocking that such behaviour could exist in a democracy.
“I will be meeting Judge Vuka Tshabalala, head of the judicial inspectorate, to discuss the incident. They have independent monitors in Westville Prison.
“I want to know how such atrocities can happen when they are present.”
He said they were also calling for answers as to how the bullets and a gun were smuggled into the prison.
“This is a scary situation. Bullets don’t come alone. There has to be a gun.”