KZN prisons: Corrupt warders accused of smuggling contraband

By Thobeka Ngema Time of article published Jan 10, 2019

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Durban - Prisoner activists believe corrupt prison warders are behind prisoners having contraband.

This came after the Department of Correctional Services conducted raids at Durban’s Westville Prison and Pietermaritzburg’s New Prison at the beginning of the year.

During the raids, contraband was confiscated from the convicts.

“Prisoners are searched when they leave the prison to attend court, and they are also searched when they return from court, so where could the contraband be coming from?” asked Derrick Mdluli of the Justice for Prisoners and Detainees Trust.

“We believe we are dealing with some corrupt warders who get things in for prisoners. Then we have some warders who are doing their best to keep prisoners safe,” Mdluli said.

“There is no chance that prisoners are not searched. In fact, prisoners should be searched every day. Again, how do they get in?”

He was pleased with the department raid, but knew that some items would be returned to prisoners.

“They should be destroyed, but others will be kept for investigations to check who the prisoners were in contact with,” he said.

He said it was unfortunate the organisation was not allowed to observe the day-to-day operation at prison. His organisation wanted to be part of anything that went on in prisons, including raids.

“How do cellphones get in? How do weapons get in? What will we do to stop this from happening?”

He said bread and cigarettes were also searched for anything hidden inside them.

He also said prisoners had cellphones, while warders were not allowed to have cellphones at their workstations.

“Another issue is that prisons are full. If a cell’s maximum capacity is 18 prisoners, it ends up with 50.

“This compromises security because there are more prisoners and fewer warders.”

Golden Miles Bhudu of the NGO South African Prisoners for Human Rights, said: “Of course contraband comes from the warders, they do not fall from Heaven.

“They are brought in by corrupt warders. It is a business between corrupt warders and corrupt prisoners.”

He said in order to stop the flow of contraband, Correctional Services needed to recognise prison-rights activists and communicate with all those involved.

“You won’t be able to stop contraband unless there is an accountable system,” he said.

In response, Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union provincial secretary Nthabeleng Molefe said they would not agree or disagree with the allegation against warders as “one in 10 is a rotten potato”.

“Those who do wrong should be arrested because warders shouldn’t continue the cycle of crime.

“The law should take its course,” Molefe said.

She said members involved in these activities should not work in prisons because they were not helping to rehabilitate prisoners.

Department of Correctional Services national spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said there were three categories of people involved in the smuggling process in correctional facilities.

“Those are inmates, officials and contractors. In those categories, you will find rotten parties and unfortunately we have cases where we’ve caught our officials smuggling contraband into our cells.

“To curb this, we have introduced devices to detect and block cellphones, but not all our facilities have these because they are expensive,” Nxumalo said.

He said some officials caught smuggling had been removed from the system through the relevant internal processes.

Daily News

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