The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) conducted a surprise inspections in prisons across the country as part of Operation Vala on Thursday. In Johannesburg’s Sun City prison, a lot of contraband was confiscated, including cellphones and weapons.
Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Thabang Makwetla says they hope to intensify these types of searches.
What was supposed to be a regular day for the prisoners in Suncity turned to more than they could have anticipated as Warders busted into their prison cells for a surprise inspection.
Deputy Minister Makwetla explains more about the raid: “If we don’t remove all of these things that when there are disputes among them, when there are some nefarious plans among them, they use in order to advance those plans. If we don’t remove these objects, then the situation gets worse. So what we are doing is disruptive to their plans they don’t like it but it is in their advantage and we must do it, we have that responsibility.”
Hundreds of inmates were ordered to line up in the courtyard outside, while kneeling down with their hands behind their heads while the Warders and the Deputy Minister embarked on the search – moving from cell to cell, bed to bed to find illegal objects.
During the raid drugs, cellphones, money, home appliances and more were found. Even a pair of uniform shoes belonging to a Warder – which the Department believes could only mean that someone from inside is helping the prisoners to smuggle illegal items in and out of prison cells.
Makwetla says these operations will continue next year. “The reason why we are here today is because as we are launching Operation Vala. Our concern is that we must remove as much stuff in the centre of the cells as is possible that can be used to fan violence over this period, especially objects and weapons that can be used to hurt each other.”
Deputy Minister Makwetla says they will launch a probe into how a pair of warder’s shoes ended up in a cell and find out who they belong to, since this contradicts everything the Correctional Services stands for. He further stated that the prison raids are for the safety of the inmates.
“These are shoes of an official – these are official shoes for officials… If it is found in the cells then there is smuggling going on. The offender will be cleaning these shoes for the official, and the offender will be paying the official which is not allowed.”
After the inspection was over, the Deputy Minister addressed the inmates. Prisoners confirmed that Wardens are often involved in criminal activities. Prisoners raised a number of other concerns as well… one inmate complained about sleeping at the top of the bunk bed, even though he is crippled.
The Minister has stated that he will come back at another time as he could not listen to everyone’s concerns due to time.And as for the inmates’ confiscated items, it is said that an investigation will be launched so that Sun City retains its status as more than just a prison but also as a rehabilitation centre for prisoners.
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