PRISONERS HURT IN GANG FIGHT

MORE than 20 inmates at Durban's Westville Correctional Service Centre were hurt when gang-related violence erupted at the facility at the weekend.

MORE than 20 inmates at Durban's Westville Correctional Service Centre were hurt when gang-related violence erupted at the facility at the weekend.

Visiting relatives and friends were allegedly denied access to the centre's medium C section. It is alleged that warders had assaulted a number of inmates after two prisoners had stabbed each other, forcing the section to be closed.

A source in the facility told Sowetan that all the inmates had then allegedly been punished.

"We were not part of the fight but the warders assaulted us. Our visitors were turned way. We have been without food for three days now," the source said.

An annoyed relative of an inmate, Bongani Manqele, said his cousin informed them that visitors were not allowed into the facility.

"We were refused entry at the gate on Saturday and Sunday but no reasons were given. Our brothers are hungry and officials do not show any mercy," he said.

Another relative, Lindiwe Mthembu, said: "We did not know that people were there to be assaulted instead of being helped to change their behaviour. Prisoners are supposed to be safe but that is not happening at Westville," she said.

Mthembu said some prisoners depended on their relatives for their medication.

"Prisoners rely on their relatives to bring their medication. People will die because no visits are allowed," she said.

Derrick Mdluli of the Justice for Prisoners and Detainees Trust said fights between inmates were a big problem.

"But the situation does not warrant the closure of a section because two people got involved in a fight.

"The rights of other inmates and their relatives should not be violated," Mdluli said.

Attempts to get comment from correctional service spokesperson Manelisi Wolela were fruitless as his phone rang unanswered.

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