Max­i­mum crime be­hind bars

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­

The cor­ri­dors of Bar­ber­ton Max­i­mum Prison in Mpumalanga, where hard­ened crim­i­nals serve their sen­tences, have be­come a breed­ing ground for law­less­ness – but of­fi­cials are adamant that they are in con­trol.

Arse­nio Alves Dos San­tos, an in­mate at the prison, has blown the whis­tle on shenani­gans tak­ing place there and ac­cused prison of­fi­cials of com­plic­ity.

Dos San­tos hails from Mozam­bique and is serv­ing a 15-year sen­tence for armed rob­bery. He smug­gled out doc­u­ments and pho­to­graphs to City Press with ev­i­dence de­tail­ing the fol­low­ing:

Pris­on­ers be­ing as­saulted and stab­bing each other;

In­mates man­u­fac­tur­ing sharp weapons from their weld­ing classes to com­mit crimes in­side prison walls; and

Warders al­low­ing pris­on­ers to carry cell­phones, which they use freely, and to smug­gle pots to cook their favourite meals.

The pris­on­ers are also al­legedly as­sisted to ac­cess dagga.

Be­ing al­lowed ac­cess to cell­phones en­abled Dos San­tos to col­lect his ev­i­dence and com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple out­side the prison, in­clud­ing City Press.

He claimed he tried to re­port the skul­dug­gery di­rectly to prison au­thor­i­ties and through spread­ing the mes­sage via Face­book, to no avail.

He has also writ­ten to the de­part­ment of jus­tice and cor­rec­tional ser­vices, as well as to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa’s of­fices, but all his com­plaints have ap­par­ently fallen on deaf ears.

“I have also spo­ken to po­lice and po­lit­i­cal par­ties via email, Face­book and What­sApp, and even made calls,” said a frus­trated Dos San­tos.

Now he fears for his life, af­ter warders and pris­on­ers al­legedly as­saulted him and, on one oc­ca­sion, a fel­low in­mate tried to stab him be­cause of his at­tempts to ex­pose the chi­canery at the prison.

Dos San­tos al­leged that he was as­saulted by pris­on­ers and warders and put in soli­tary con­fine­ment for three months when he com­plained af­ter a fel­low in­mate, Luis Phum­bane Ma­camo, was cut by an­other pris­oner with a blade across the face on April 1.

The prison’s man­age­ment al­legedly took no ac­tion un­til six days later, when Dos San­tos re­ported the mat­ter to Bar­ber­ton po­lice sta­tion.

Mpumalanga po­lice spokesper­son Sergeant Ger­ald Sed­ibe con­firmed the ex­is­tence of two crim­i­nal cases which Dos San­tos claimed he opened af­ter he was as­saulted.

“One case is await­ing a de­ci­sion from the pros­e­cu­tor, while an­other has been with­drawn,” Sed­ibe said.

De­part­ment of cor­rec­tional ser­vices spokesper­son Singabakho Nx­u­malo said the de­part­ment was aware of Dos San­tos’ com­plaints, his al­leged as­sault and Ma­camo’s cut­ting.

“Yes, dis­ci­plinary ac­tions were taken against in­di­vid­u­als in­volved in these trans­ac­tions [smug­gling cell­phones and dagga]. It is for this rea­son that we have in­stalled cell­phone de­tec­tors and body scan­ners in some of our cen­tres – to en­sure that con­tra­band items do not find a way in­side cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties,” Nx­u­malo said.

He added that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­ducted into Ma­camo’s as­sault and con­cluded on Septem­ber 1. How­ever, he did not give de­tails of the find­ings, say­ing a dis­ci­plinary process was started.

Re­gard­ing Dos San­tos’ as­sault, he said: “The for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion was in­sti­tuted, but it is not yet fi­nalised.”

Ken­neth Mthombeni, the cor­rec­tional ser­vices area com­mis­sioner for Mpumalanga, Lim­popo and North West, dis­missed Dos San­tos’ claims as an at­tempt to get spe­cial treat­ment.

“You must know that we are keep­ing peo­ple in prison against their will. They lack dis­ci­pline and think they can threaten us with the me­dia.

“Some of them are im­mi­grants who may have no say if they were im­pris­oned in their coun­tries,” Mthombeni said.

He con­ceded that dagga and cell­phones were found in pris­ons be­cause they were smug­gled by cor­rupt of­fi­cials and in­mates’ rel­a­tives.

“We search from time to time and dis­ci­pline peo­ple. When we dis­ci­pline them, they go to the me­dia look­ing for sen­sa­tion­al­ism,” Mthombeni said.

CON­TRA­BAND Dagga sold in­side prison

DEADLY A prison weapon

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