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'killer' warders taken off duty

By unknown | Jan 23, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Seven prison officials linked to the killing of an inmate at Pietermarizburg New Prison have been suspended.

The provincial department of correctional services announced yesterday that the action was taken to ensure that the men "in no way sabotage" an independent investigation conducted into the matter.

The department has appointed a task team comprising investigators from five different management areas to probe the incident further.

The warders were suspended following an internal preliminary investigation.

It's alleged that inmate Senzo Mazi- buko, 28, was assaulted by warders a week ago and taken to the prison hospital and beaten to death. Before his death Mazibuko was allegedly involved in a fight with a fellow inmate.

Provincial correctional services commissioner Nkosinathi Nhleko told the media that the implicated officials had been suspended so that they did not "sabotage the investigation".

"The report that an inmate died in our facility was quite disturbing. As a centre, we have a mandate to carry to ensure that offenders are being treated equally and humanely," he said.

"The team must verify the allegation levelled against the warders. There is also a claim that the offender was assaulted when he was separated from the other inmate who was beating him with a padlock and that he was also beaten in the hospital."

He said he was concerned that the flow of information was slow from the facility to his office.

He had received the information that an offender had died in the centre after two days.

He said the team tasked with leading the fresh investigation was expected to report back in two weeks' time.

The department's investigation will run parallel with that of the South African Police Service.

Nhleko refused to give details about the result of the preliminary internal investigation that led to the suspension of the warders.

"The investigation is in progress and the findings will be available once everything is completed in two weeks," he concluded.

Despite the suspensions, the prisoners' human rights group Saphor said it remained unconvinced about the "department's efforts to curb the death of inmates".

"The suspension sounds good on paper. But as far as we are concerned this remains a PR exercise. There will be a disciplinary hearing and after a while when the hype dies down the alleged offenders will be reinstated into the system," Saphor said.

Saphor said the prisons service needed its own independent complaints directorate (ICD) similar to that in the SAPS.

"An ICD for correctional services will make sure that warders do not take the law unto themselves and act with impunity.

"Like the SAPS' ICD, it will mean that warders guilty of misconduct will be exposed."


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