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By Eric Naki

Political Editor


Gang violence at Mangaung prison causes concern

Warders and inmates have been stabbed in a surge of violent attacks at the privately run Mangaung Correctional Centre.


Insiders at the privately operated Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein fear that violence may be spiralling out of control, with prison gang members clashing with police attempting to contain the fighting between rival gangs. Prison gang members on Monday apparently broke out of the exercise yard and chased members of the Tactical Response Unit, while wielding rocks, sticks, and taps they had converted into weapons. The inmates broke cell windows and encouraged other prisoners to join in on their protest. The prisoners allegedly wanted revenge after one of their members had his eye removed by doctors, following a stabbing during…

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Insiders at the privately operated Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein fear that violence may be spiralling out of control, with prison gang members clashing with police attempting to contain the fighting between rival gangs.

Prison gang members on Monday apparently broke out of the exercise yard and chased members of the Tactical Response Unit, while wielding rocks, sticks, and taps they had converted into weapons. The inmates broke cell windows and encouraged other prisoners to join in on their protest.

The prisoners allegedly wanted revenge after one of their members had his eye removed by doctors, following a stabbing during a fight between members of the 26 and 28 gangs in December last year.

This is apparently just the latest incident in recent weeks, after another fight last week, during which seven inmates from the rival gangs were left injured in a violent stabbing frenzy inside the facility.

A source described the prison as “hell” with numerous cases of gang-related fights and rapes. Prison gangsterism involving hardened criminals is said to be impacting terribly on some inmates at the centre.

The Department of Correctional Services and prison authorities have denied that gang-violence is a problem, saying there had only been sporadic incidents that were unrelated to gangsters.

Correctional Services Ministry spokesperson, Singabakho Nxumalo, said the facility was not always violent.

“But incidents of different nature in a closed space (do occur) and such could be caused by various factors,” Nxumalo said.

He added that gang-related violence was rare at Mangaung centre, aside from the occasional incidents . “We hadn’t had gang violence there for a long time.”

On Saturday 23 May, a prison official was badly stabbed by inmates on prison grounds, in what was reported to be a well-planned attack against the warder. The incident happened when one of three 26 gang members, held the official in a tight grip from behind while his two fellows stabbed him multiple times.

One of his attackers was a notorious gang member who was transferred from St Albans in the Eastern Cape for being violent, and another was a repeat offender. Members of the Tactical Response Unit arrived soon thereafter to rescue the official from the attackers, who were later sent to solitary confinement.

The official was rushed to hospital with serious wounds to his head and face. He was hospitalized for a week before he was released this week.

Police Prisons and Civil Rights Union (Popcru) also confirmed the stabbing of the official.

Popcru Free State provincial secretary, Chakale Mahlatsi, was concerned about the incident.

“As Popcru we sent our heartfelt sympathy to the injured official and all those related to him. We extremely condemn the violence against the employees,” Mahlatsi said.

She said at all facilities it operated they reiterate the safety of their members and for them “to be vigilant at all material times”. It was clear that the incident was meticulously planned by the inmates.

“In the preliminary investigation it depicts that all precautionary measures were adhered to, there is nothing that points to negligence from the official. Staff establishment was okay and the union would like to applaud the manner in which the prison authority speedily contained the situation,” Mahlatsi said.

She lauded the health officials who ran to raise alarm to other officials about the attack.

“For the record, this is not an isolated incident in our correctional facilities, but we shall keep on encouraging our members throughout the country to wear required protective clothes in the prison environment. As we have been doing and will definitely continue to enforce safety measures on our members,” Mahlatsi said.

ericn@citizen.co.za

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