TWO warders were stabbed and seriously wounded by inmates at one of the Eastern Cape’s most notorious prisons, St Albans in Port Elizabeth, last week.
The officials were stabbed in separate incidents. One was stabbed in the head, shoulders and chest, and the other sustained head injuries.
The South African Correctional Services Workers’ Union (Sacoswu) condemned the attacks, saying incidents of this nature were getting out of hand in the province.
The union said officials were not allowed to defend themselves against their attackers, as they would then be charged.
Union provincial secretary Lando Sam said: “Management does not have plans to stop what is happening in our correctional centres. Eight officials were stabbed in St Albans in the space of two months early last year.
“Just last week another two were stabbed – one has been left with serious injuries.”
Sam said the union was calling for the department to protect its employees. He said that the situation between senior prison officials and warders had reached boiling point.
“Just last month, more than 200 knives were found in St Albans Prison, and other prisons are the same.
“Some managers are not supportive. We don’t want to see a Marikana incident in our prisons,” he said.
Eastern Cape Correctional Services spokesman Zama Feni confirmed the recent stabbings and said the challenges faced by officials were receiving attention. “We are thinking about the most effective means of dealing with this,” he said.
Sam said the department was in crisis. “The community and government will not understand when we decide to down tools. We have to prepare inmates to vote this year.
“How are we going to achieve this if we fear for our lives?”
Last year, the union said its members were “walking in blood” inside Eastern Cape prisons.
Since 2012, one warder has been killed and three stabbed and critically injured in East London and Barkly East correctional centres. The union attributes this to staff shortages and overcrowding.
“Management doesn’t want to listen to members on the ground. Our members are stabbed and the same inmates are not moved to maximum facilities; they continue to injure our colleagues. We are working in danger and if we fight back we are charged,” Sam said.
Feni said: “It is a concern for the managers in the same way as it is to officials.”
Sam said the union would engage all stakeholders before any action was taken.