Pretoria - The Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre management is under fire for allegedly failing to protect a mentally challenged inmate who committed suicide.
William Phetla, 45, eventually succeeded in taking his own life, having made a failed attempt two days before.
He hanged himself at midnight in the hospital wing of the prison.
Phetla’s body was discovered hanging from a rope made of sheet material.
Staffers believe the issue of Phetla’s life being in danger had been raised prior to his death, but had fallen on deaf ears.
They shared graphic images of Phetla dead and with his tongue protruding from the force of the sheet around his neck.
The images showed him dressed in an orange prison uniform, leaning lifelessly against the wall with his left hand shoved inside a brown paper bag.
“Following an incident when this inmate attempted to take his own life by jumping off the building, he was moved to where officials acted negligently by failing to keep an eye on him. He was left unattended,” a staff member said.
A complainant said Phetla’s death was the result of incompetence because he had found all the material he needed to commit suicide in the new room he was moved into.
Correctional Services spokesperson Mocheta Monama said preliminary investigations revealed that Phetla had used hospital sheets to make a rope, which he tied to the window pane and then had hanged himself in the bathroom of the communal ward.
“The hospital staff were left astounded because he never showed any signs of danger towards himself or fellow inmates.
"He had been in specialised care since 2013, and his condition had been stabilised.
“The department worked continuously with other health institutions to ensure that the inmate received the best medical attention until the last day,” Monama said.
Internal investigations were under way, he said, and the police were also investigating the matter to establish the cause and help put measures in place to prevent similar incidents from taking place in future.
“It is our priority as the department to provide access to health care by inmates.
“Their safety and health will always be ensured through the provision of a safe and secure environment,” said Monama.
When Phetla killed himself last week, he was serving a 30-year sentence for kidnapping, robbery, possession of a firearms, ammunition and the attempted murder of five people.
The complainant, from an anonymous e-mail account, wrote to Correctional Services about the incident.
“I will therefore keep on reporting on these matters that expose the maladministration and incompetence taking place herein until someone finally acts upon it.”
The police confirmed that they were investigating the alleged suicide of an inmate at the prison, but would reveal no further information.