'Moered' murderers demand their rights
They attacked a warder. What happened next is murky, but left them with lashed backs. Now their families are protesting
The families of three prisoners who attacked a warder at a maximum security prison say the inmates have been refused outside medical treatment after “force” had to be used to contain the situation.
The warder was overpowered and assaulted by the three inmates, Orapa Qele, Uhuru Qele and Monwabisi Ketyana, who are in jail for murder, at Fort Glamorgan last Thursday, said Eastern Cape correctional services spokesperson Nobuntu Gantana.
The prison official sustained severe injuries to the right arm and face.
“In order to contain the situation, necessary force had to be used,” said Gantana, who declined to expand on the incident.
She denied claims from the family members that the inmates were beaten up with batons in a revenge attack by between 50 and 70 of prison warders, who were said to have left their posts in the prison to intervene.
Times Select has seen pictures and videos of the badly assaulted inmates. Family members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were seeking legal advice.
“What happened there is hurting but we will be speaking to my lawyers for advice of what next to do,” said a father of one of the inmates.
Another relative said: “They should have allowed them to go out to see an outside medical doctor. When we want answers, they tell us that they will do their internal investigations and they won’t allow them out. What if these people die there? Who will be responsible?” She said they fear the inmates could have suffered from internal injuries. “We are hurt by this and they were tortured in that they can’t even move from where they are. What about their rights? If they are accused of assaulting a warder, a case should have been opened against them with the police,” said the relative.
Gantana said the prisoners were not allowed visits from family members because of “the internal disciplinary action against the offenders”.
“Their amenities were suspended for seven days in accordance with the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998, as amended. However, the families were informed about the reasons why they could not visit the offenders. A case was opened against the offenders that assaulted the official,” said Gantana.
She denied that between 50 and 70 warders left their posts to attack the three inmates and that they were not allowed to visit outside hospital or clinic.
“The offenders were examined by professional medical staff after the incident and they were given medical treatment. In their professional opinion it was not necessary to refer the offenders for further examination,” said Gantana.
Petros Majola of Khula Community Development Project, which focuses on child and human rights, said he heard about this from the families.
“We are taking this matter with the prison; we cannot leave it like this. The prison is saying it is doing their internal investigation and from there we will see what the next step is.
Majola said the least the prison could have done was to release the inmates for an external clinical examination after the assault. “You can’t rely on an internal medical staff on this case. If the families are prevented to see their relatives, they have the right to come to us to seek intervention.”
Earlier this month, Judge Johann van der Westhuizen, who headed the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS), which looked into the living conditions of prisoners at 81 of the country’s 243 correctional centres, released a report on the bad conditions in SA prisons. Van der Westhuizen insisted that no matter how “horrendous” their crimes, prisoners still had the right to live with dignity.