Report on prison violence deaths imminent

Mhlaba Memela

A high-level investigation into the deaths of inmates of Waterval Prison in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, is expected to be completed soon.

The investigation, led by the Inspecting Judge of Prisons Nathan Erasmus, was established by the chairman of parliament's correctional services portfolio committee, Dennis Bloem, three weeks ago.

The team will investigate allegations by Waterval prisoners that warders stood by and applauded as violence broke out among inmates in March. Two prisoners were killed and others were injured during the fighting.

"I took the matter to the national commissioner of correctional services, Vernie Peterson, and we are working hard to get on top of the issue," Erasmus said.

He said he could not divulge details of the investigation because the matter was sub judice.

"If I provide information on this issue I will jeopardise the investigation. I can assure all stakeholders that a report will be issued shortly," said Erasmus.

"Families of the inmates who were victims of the violence are welcome to contact my office."

The family of Thamsanqa Dladla, 27, who was killed during the violence, alleged that Dladla was killed by warders. The family also said they were not informed about Dladla's death for seven days.

Dladla's mother, Khalathi Dladla, said she wants justice to prevail.

"He was badly beaten and there were holes in his head," she said.

Dladla died a week before he was to be released.

The family of Khehla Miya, who was killed at the prison last year, said they demanded answers from correctional services about their son's death. Miya died two days before he was to be released.

Inmates allege that five other prisoners were killed during last year's upheaval.

The community has raised concerns about the growing number of inmate deaths at the prison.