AN emergency services team leader (EST) who was sent to St Albans prison in July 2005 to conduct a mass search for weapons after a warder was stabbed and killed, denied yesterday ever assaulting any inmates during the searches.
Mthuthuzeli Swartbooi, who headed a 30-man EST crew, told the Port Elizabeth High Court he had never assaulted an inmate during the searches at the prison – and that no inmates were ever assaulted in his presence.
“The rights of the inmates are always respected,” Swartbooi said.
Judge Dayalin Chetty is presiding over one of the largest damages claims against the Department of Correctional Services after 231 inmates claimed they were tortured, assaulted and even sexually assaulted in the two weeks after the murder of warder Babini Nqakula.
Medical records of many of the prisoners indicate a series of injuries, including lacerations and linear bruises to the back.
Advocate Bruce Dyke, representing the prisoners, said: “There was a conspiracy of silence. You knew you could go and beat prisoners and no one would know because the prison had been shut down and there was no access to hospitals.” Swartbooi replied: “That is not so.” But Dyke continued: “You were constitutionally and ethically delinquent of everything that happened.”
Swartbooi said: “I obeyed all the rules of the constitution.”
The case continues today.