THE SITUATION remains tense at Kimberley’s Tswelopele Correctional Centre as both prison warders and inmates reportedly threatened protest action on Tuesday.
It is believed that several inmates threatened to embark on a hunger strike from lunch-time, while warders engaged with Correctional Services management in the morning in an effort to avoid strike action.
According to a reliable source, the inmates threatened to go on a hunger strike after submitting a letter of grievances to the centre management. They had given management seven days to respond.
The inmates complained about living conditions inside the centre and called on Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul to intervene.
Overcrowding was on top of their list of grievances, while they also alleged that Covid-19 procedures were not observed, particularly in terms of social distancing.
They also highlighted their sleeping arrangements, complaining of dirty blankets and mattresses, as well as the fact that they apparently have to take cold showers.
There are further reports that there is no sanitising inside the prison cells.
They also raised complaints that their visiting rights were taken away, while they are not provided with essentials like toiletries.
The warders, meanwhile, have also reportedly raised issues regarding Covid-19 procedures, with complaints that while top officials are allowed to claim for injury on duty if they contract the virus, other officials are prevented from doing so.
According to the warders there are a number of officials, some of whom have comorbidities, and inmates who have contracted Covid-19.
The Public Servants Association (PSA) has suggested that the workforce be divided into two groups, with each working a seven-day shift in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. The union has also suggested that staff with comorbidities be given the option to work remotely where possible.
This is in terms of a directive from the national head office, sent to regional heads, that all regions should ensure that work scheduling is in accordance with the 50% principle. Warders are reportedly frustrated because the policy has not yet been implemented.
According to the latest figures from the Department of Correctional Services, there are currently 135 officials and 12 inmates in the Free State and Northern Cape region who have tested positive for Covid-19.
Department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said the statistics for individual centres were not provided due to the extreme stigmatisation that officials have been subjected to.
Nthako Nyapotse, the Acting Deputy Regional Commissioner, said on Tuesday afternoon that, according to information received from the Head of Centre at Tswelopele, the situation at the facility is calm.
He said that the centre, which accommodates 2 147 offenders, had not received notification that any offender had registered a hunger strike. He added that the situation would, however, be monitored.