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Cape Town - Prisoners claimed R24.7 million from the Department of Correctional Services in the past financial year for assault and injury.
The department also faced claims of R300 000 for death in detention and R100 000 for loss of support.
Legal costs for defending these claims amounted to R27.7m.
One of the assault claims, for R9m, was cancelled because the department had not been properly cited as a party, Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele revealed on Thursday in a written reply to a parliamentary question from DA MP James Selfe.
The rest of the claims had been paid in full, Ndebele said.
Selfe told Independent Newspapers that although the amount spent on payouts for injuries was “unacceptable”, it was also “absolutely avoidable”.
The solution was to make officials individually responsible for the costs incurred in the event of abuse of power.
Selfe said this would create “a culture of responsibility”.
Chairman of Parliament’s oversight committee on correctional services, Vincent Smith, said the costs were “alarming” and “unacceptable”.
While it was understood that violence between prisoners happened and needed to be managed, violence between an official and a prisoner was unacceptable, Vincent said.