By Sifiso Dlamini | 2020-06-11
A prison riot led by prison gang members resulted in the death of an inmate at Sidvwashini correctional facility yesterday.
What began as a prison gang riot, ended in the tragic loss of the life of a 25-year-old male of Nkambeni (Buhlebuyeza) who was serving a three-year sentence having been convicted for grievous bodily harm (GBH) and another three month sentence for malicious damage to property.
Information gathered revealed that members of one of the notorious prison gangs known as 26, 27 and 28 ignored all attempts of ending the riot and attacked parking officers who in turn used minimum force in an attempt to end the riot which ended tragically with the loss of life.
The inmate was pronounced dead upon arrival at Mbabane Government Hospital.
A statement issued by His Majesty's Correctional Services stated that following the riot by a group of convicted offenders at Mbabane Correctional Centre, the Commissioner General Phindile LaMakhosini Dlamini through the public relations office presented an account of her preliminary investigations leading to officers exercising Section 12 of the Correctional Services Act which provides for the use of minimum force in order to maintain order in a correctional centre.
HMCS Public Relations Officer Gugulethu Dlamini said yesterday at around 1800 hours, a group of 14 inmates occupying one of the blocks (D8) in the correctional centre initiated a riot within their cell where the inmates believed to be members of the 28 gang attacked their fellow iminates who are not affiliated to any of the prohibited prison gangs.
She said investigations revealed that upon noticing that all other cells had been locked and officers were now patrolling the facility premises, the inmates started attacking their colleagues from inside their cell with full knowledge that it would take some time for officers to open their dormitories as there are procedures which need to be followed before a cell can be opened, especially after hours.
She added that soon after noting the commotion which had engulfed the cell, the patrolling officers responded and tried to calm the situation through the spy-hole by reprimanding the inmates who at the time seemed determined to eliminate their helpless colleagues.
"At the same time, officers raised an alarm to the facility’s authorities who responded promptly," she said. She stated that the centre’s director upon arrival at the scene, also made efforts to rebuke the offenders but they did not listen to him.
"At the time, some of the inmates were already lying on the floor, bleeding profusely as the perpetrators had broken some of the water taps in their bathrooms and used them as weapons," said Dlamini. She mentioned thtat at that moment, the authorities realised the danger posed by the offenders who were exhibiting traits of animalism and hooliganism hence they applied Section 12 of the Correctional Services Act, 2017 which calls for the use of minimum force by officers.
She said having assessed the situation, and realised that indeed the affiliated gang members were not willing to desist from their behavior when called upon to do so, but were steadily and surely determined to inflict grave injury to their fellow inmates, the cell was thereby opened and officers had to use minimum force to pave their way through and rescue the seriously injured non-affiliated inmate who had been encircled by the angry inmates.
She said however, what came as a surprise to the officers was that some of the enraged offenders failed to comply with the order and started fighting with them, throwing all sorts of missiles at them, including the water taps and pipes, hence the officers used batons to protect themselves.
She said the commissioner general, however, lamented that during this altercation, some of the inmates sustained injuries as they stumbled on each other during the scuffle with one inmate later succumbing to death having being taken to Mbabane Government hospital.
Dlamini further said investigations to what the fundamental cause might have been are still ongoing but at the moment it has since emerged that the offenders who run these prison gangs, at this time of the year, engage in a series of meetings where they plan heavy disturbances in operations within the centres.
"In these discreate meetings, the inmates even contemplate the killing of officers in order for them to gain popularity and be promoted within the hierarchy of the gangs," she said.
She mentioned that these gangs are self-formed associations of peers united by mutual interests. They thrived in negative thinking and relied on hatred and violence as a sense of security. She said they maintained their existence at the correctional facilities through recruiting innocent souls into their gang by preying on weaker inmates.
They also use using violence, intimidation and at times, murder as it has been witnessed in the matter at hand where they wanted to kill their fellow inmates who refused to be part of their gang.
Dlamini added that these groups existed and operated undercover amongst inmate populations, they remained prohibited in all the centres and the department worked around the clock to discourage offenders from being part of these gangs.
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