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Prison warders under siege - 'We fear that one of us will die'

By Pertunia Mafokwane | 2014-12-06 08:01:02.0

A NUMBER of prison warders have been lucky to escape with their lives after being stabbed and assaulted by inmates.

This shocking revelation is contained in the department of correctional services' annual report for 2013/14.

And now, with the festive season at hand, warders are worried about further attacks as they claim that inmates are most dangerous around this time of the year.

The warders are very scared.

"Offenders are most dangerous during the December and Good Friday [Easter] holidays. They attempt to escape and are very violent," said a worried warder at Baviaanspoort Prison near Pretoria.

Recently, an inmate was killed in what is believed to be gang-related violence at the facility.

The department of correctional services said it was investigating a case of murder and attempted murder following the attacks.

Department spokesman Logan Maistry said a criminal case was opened and the matter was still under investigation.

According to the department's annual report for April 1 2013 to March 31 2014, a total of 682 officials were injured on duty in the country's prisons.

Fifty were assaulted and stabbed by prisoners. Of the 682 injured, 338 of them required basic medical attention, while another 332 suffered temporary total disablement, and 10 were permanently disabled.

Two died from their injuries but authorities said they were not injured by prisoners.

 Seven prisoners were stabbed during a gang war at Baviaanspoort over a week ago and this has heightened fears of attacks on warders. Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokeswoman Theto Mahlakoana said they were engaging the department on the issue of under-staffing.

"We are worried about the implications this fact has on the well-being and safety of our members. We have engaged in various intervention methods with the department to employ more officers," she said.

Another warder at Baviaanspoort said: "We work in fear. It is common knowledge that when a gang leader is killed, his gang will kill an official and an offender from a rival gang to avenge the death. We fear that one of us will die.

"They will do it, there is no way that they cannot do it."

Another official also said that they were short-staffed.

"Two officers look after more than 200 offenders and when one is on lunch the other is left alone.

"Our lives are at risk. Offenders can take advantage of the fact that we are outnumbered and attack us. You're not sure what will happen."

 

Another warder said they had to watch their backs all the time.

"We open for them and serve them food in fear. We never know when they will attack us."

A warder said a colleague was hit more than 10 times on the head with a padlock hidden inside a prisoner's sock. "We worry that next time one of us will die."

ratsatsip@sowetan.co.za

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