Johannesburg -  The Public Servants Association (PSA) on Monday blasted the Department of Correctional Services over inadequate staffing after a female prison warder was stabbed to death during a hostage ordeal at the Goedemoed Medium Correctional Centre in the Free State.

An inmate at the prison serving a life sentence held two female warders, aged 33 and 35, hostage on Friday. The 35-year-old was stabbed to death during the hostage ordeal. Her colleague was released after hours of negotiations with the prisoner, said  PSA general manager Ivan Fredericks 

''The PSA believes that these attacks could have been avoided if sufficient officials were on duty. Goedemoed Center functions over weekends with only half of its staff establishment because of the shift pattern that applies at the centre. How many lives must be sacrificed before the department wakes up and ensures that it complies with its own member-inmate-ratio document and adequate staffing?”.

The deceased warder was identified as Nomsa Joyce Stuurman, according to media reports. She was allegedly stabbed in the neck with a pair of scissors. It is further alleged that her colleague was raped by the inmate.

Fredericks said understaffing at the prison was a ''ticking timebomb.''

''It is unacceptable, bordering on criminal, that officials are expected to carry out their duties, including the monitoring of dangerous inmates, without the necessary support and in the face of policies that promote the interest and rights of inmates while glaringly neglecting the rights of its employees.  

“Goedemoed officials and their families are in the PSA’s thoughts and prayers. The PSA calls upon the department to ensure that officials receive trauma counselling and the necessary support. At the same time, the PSA demands decisive action from the Minister of Correctional Services [Michael Masutha] to resolve understaffing without delay,... as we are dealing with a ticking bomb.''

African News Agency (ANA)