Pris­on­ers riot

At­temptmpt to burn downn Mohale’s Hoekk pri­son on Christ­masst­mas day

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

STARV­ING in­mates tried to burn down Mohale’s Hoek Pri­son and make a get­away on Christ­mas day af­ter be­ing de­nied food for two con­sec­u­tive days by strik­ing warders, the Le­sotho Times has learnt.

How­ever, the sit­u­a­tion was later brought un­der con­trol by the warders who had re­alised things were get­ting out of con­trol, but the pri­son had al­ready been dam­aged.

Guards at al­most all the coun­try’s prisons em­barked on a go-slow three weeks ago to press gov­ern­ment into re­view­ing their salaries and rank struc­ture.

The industrial ac­tion started at Maseru Cen­tral Pri­son but has since spread to other in­sti­tu­tions through­out the coun­try. As part of the go-slow, the guards have been re­fus­ing to take in­mates to the courts, and also deny­ing pris­on­ers any vis­its from their rel­a­tives.

How­ever, last week’s re­fusal to feed the in­mates was an­other twist to the go-slow, which the guards have vowed to con­tinue un­til their griev­ances have been fully ad­dressed.

The Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice Staff As­so­ci­a­tion (LECCSA) chair­per­son, Le­bona­joang Ramo­ha­lali on Tues­day this week con­firmed the Mohale’s Hoek fi­asco, which he said could have had dire con­se­quences for the coun­try.

Chief Of­fi­cer Ramo­ha­lali told the Le­sotho Times: “What hap­pened was Mohale’s Hoek Pri­son guards de­nied in­mates their meals on 24 and 25 De­cem­ber, as part of the goslow which has been go­ing on since 12 De­cem­ber.

“This was one way of show­ing the au­thor­i­ties that the go-slow was still on, and would not stop un­til the griev­ances over salaries and a new rank struc­ture, which have been out­stand­ing since 2011, have been ad­dressed.

“How­ever, the re­sponse from the in­mates was dev­as­tat­ing be­cause af­ter go­ing for two days with­out food, they could not take it any­more, so they tried to break out of the pri­son.

“How­ever, their at­tempts to burn down the fa­cil­ity failed although some dam­age was done to the pri­son as they tried set them­selves free.

“The sit­u­a­tion was later brought un­der con­trol by the warders who could see that things were now get­ting out of hand, but the fact of the mat­ter is that this go-slow is not go­ing to stop un­til the gov­ern­ment has ad­dressed our griev­ances.”

The Min­istry of Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional ser­vice Prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary (PS), Teboho Mohlomi, also con­firmed the dam­age to the Mohale’s Hoek Pri­son, but de­nied Mr Ramo­ha­lali’s claims that the pris- on­ers had gone for two days with­out be­ing fed.

“The dam­age to Mohale’s Hoek Pri­son is huge be­cause the in­mates ham­mered the walls un­til they cracked and also tried to poke some holes in the walls in or­der to es­cape. Luck­ily, none of them suc­ceeded to get away but the dam­age is go­ing to cost the Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice a lot of money,” Mr Mohlomi said.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Mohlomi, the in­mates also burnt their cloth­ing and blan­kets in an ef­fort to de­stroy the pri­son.

“They even burnt their own clothes and pri­son blan­kets and I think they wanted to set the whole place ablaze and then es­cape. I be­lieve they wanted to take ad­van­tage of the warders’ go-slow and make their get­away,” Mr Mohlomi added.

“How­ever, this is­sue that the in­mates had not been fed for two days is not true at all be­cause I have not been told this was the rea­son why they de­cided to riot.”

Asked what could have caused the re­volt then, the PS said the in­mates sim­ply wanted to take ad­van­tage of the guards’ go-slow.

“They re­alised the go-slow was on-go­ing and sim­ply wanted to take ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion”

How­ever, Mr Mohlomi would not say when the guards’ griev­ances would be ad­dressed: “The gov­ern­ment and LCS au­thor­i­ties are dis­cussing the is­sue.

“I can’t say when ex­actly this cri­sis is go­ing to be re­solved but like I said, the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties are dis­cussing this mat­ter. As soon as the talks are com­plete, then the LCS of­fi­cers will have their salaries ad­justed.”

Re­peated ef­forts to get a com­ment from Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices min­is­ter, Mot­lohi Maliehe were fruit­less yes­ter­day as his mo­bile phone was con­tin­u­ously on voice­mail.

Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices min­is­ter Mot­lohi Maliehe

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