Investigation into alleged cricket bat assault of juveniles

JICS said its investigations into the alleged assault of three juveniles found evidence that the youths were beaten. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency/ANA

JICS said its investigations into the alleged assault of three juveniles found evidence that the youths were beaten. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency/ANA

Published Jan 26, 2024

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Cape Town - The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is awaiting outcomes of an investigation into the alleged assault of juvenile inmates who were beaten with a cricket bat by warders.

The warders have denied the incident.

The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) said yesterday that its investigations into the alleged assault of three juveniles found evidence that the youths were beaten at Mossel Bay Youth Correctional Centre.

“JICS’s investigators uncovered prima facie evidence that DCS officials regularly use cricket bats to assault juvenile inmates as a form of punishment. Medical records available to JICS appear to confirm this finding.”

The oversight body said it would release findings once the investigation was complete.

However, DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said: “There is no evidence that says juveniles were beaten with a cricket bat. The cited officials deny the allegations. There is no evidence.

“What can assist the process is for JICS to table a report with facts so that we can engage on what has been affirmed to be the truth,” he said.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) provincial secretary Pat Raolane said they would establish the circumstances around the alleged incident.

“Correctional Services facilities are meant to rehabilitate, whether juveniles or other, it’s meant to rehabilitate.

“If there is a scene like this, it’s unacceptable, it’s unwarranted, it’s uncalled for. But allow us the space to establish, is there anything of this particular nature, what actually happened, why there is a bat that is being utilised during working hours.”

Chairperson of the SA Sentenced and Awaiting Trial Prisoners Organisation (Sasapo), Phindile Zweni, said assaults in prison were so prevalent that he immediately believed the juveniles were assaulted.

Zweni has been formally championing inmate human rights since 2005.

He said there were many reasons why assaults on inmates at the hands of officials took place, and a lot of this had to do with gangs running the facilities.

These assaults took place when inmates were broke and could not pay for protection, while other assaults happened at the instruction of gangsters, among others, said Zweni.

“We have been fighting with them (DCS) for years for better human rights. It is all in vain. Inmates die in prison, it was especially bad during the Covid pandemic. It’s hell on earth to be in prison,” said Zweni.

Policy development and advocacy specialist at Sonke Gender Justice, Namuma Mulindi, said the use of a cricket bat on a child made the action a crime of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, which carried a minimum sentence of 10 years.

Mulindi said the use of corporal punishment was a violation of the right to dignity and freedom and security of the person.

“We also need to be aware of the long-term psychological impact of corporal punishment and how it creates a cycle of violence in our communities as children grow up believing in the use of violence as the core means by which problems are resolved,” she said.

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