Scuffle between prisoners and guards ends in injury and blood
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A raid at the Boksburg Correctional Service Centre on Friday last week left some inmates injured after scuffles broke out between prisoners and the guards.
According to inmates who spoke to the Sunday Independent this week, the clash came after they submitted a formal complaint about the centre’s head, Hendrik Smith, on September 1, accusing him of a number of infringements, including assault and failing to provide good living conditions.
A few days after the submission, the inmates said, a group of guards arrived at the prison and beat them while looking for drugs and dangerous objects. They claimed that the authorities were also looking for some of the inmates who had led the delegation. The chaos was captured on video. According to one inmate, the conflict started after some of the prisoners protested and refused to be searched. Inmate Themba Sekgoto* said he suffered severe injuries to his head and back.
“They woke everyone up and beat them. This was until we asked why they were assaulting us. What went wrong? They said they came to search. Some people went out in their underwear and some were still in pyjamas,” he said. “They didn’t even give us a chance to dress. They beat us to a point where we decided to fight back. All this started after we filed a complaint against the head, and we think he was the one who approved this whole thing,” Sekgoto added.
Another prisoner said they were angry that Smith had never met with them since his arrival four months ago, but had sent the guards to conduct a search.
“He made an excuse that he couldn’t meet us because of Covid-19, but he sent the guards to search the cells. Over 30 of the guys were beaten and were transferred to other prisons.”
Another prisoner said they have since been under heavy lockdown following the scuffle last week.
The prisoners said Smith was abusive and arrogant and submitted a 28-page complaint, claiming that Smith was involved in serious allegations of unlawful, aggressive and questionable conduct such as assaulting, torturing, and co-ercing inmates. They said 13 cells had no access to hot water since their arrival in Section B, while other cells have experienced the same problem in April.
Smith responded that he would meet with two of the inmates’ representatives on September 16.
The prisoners said they also wrote to Correctional Services commissioner Arthur Fraser.
SA Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR) spokesperson Golden Miles Bhudu said he warned the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) of the “wildcat protest” due to sudden stopping of legal and social visits, lack of PPEs for the yet-to-be-sentenced and sentenced inmates and correctional workers, as well as warders strip-searching of prisoners.
DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said the purpose of the raid was to detect and confiscate prohibited objects, and that the operation was proceeding well without challenges until officials reached cell 320. “That is where inmates started being unruly and running in different directions and refused to be searched. The situation needed to be brought back under control and minimum force had to be used. This was to ensure that inmates were safely placed back in their cells,” said Nxumalo.
He confirmed that 10 inmates sustained “minor” injuries and were treated, and said the complaints from inmates had been received and feedback would be provided.
THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT