Home South African Outcry over infected KZN prison official’s braai with colleagues

Outcry over infected KZN prison official’s braai with colleagues

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Warder allegedly continued with his duties until a doctor informed the prison about his status

CALLS are growing for a Department of Correctional Services employee to be charged for his “reckless” behaviour when he allegedly attended a braai with colleagues after he tested positive for Covid-19. 

Leading the chorus was the IFP spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison Blessed Gwala and prison activists, calling for the KwaZulu-Natal official to be charged.

Gwala said the official allegedly continued with his duties until a doctor who tested him informed the institution about his status. The member was placed under isolation at the state facility while other employees were also in isolation. 

Gwala also called on KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, who is the chair of the Provincial Command Team, to investigate the matter. He said the Department of Health should also be involved while the management at the prison has to provide the report detailing what happened.

He said the official must be charged for contravening the National Disaster Act when he mingled with colleagues. 

“We need to set an example so that people would understand that every action has consequences. This is a national catastrophe, with thousands of people at risk of being infected by one irrational official,” Gwala said. 

The infected warder lived in the single quarters at the prison, which is home to about 60 members who share the same ablution facilities. 

The Westville medium B official had recently returned to work after 

he was hospitalised in March. 

He had gone to the in-house doctor after feeling unwell when he displayed Covid-19 symptoms. 

Two sources have confirmed that the member attended a braai two weeks ago.

“I saw them feasting on meat and drinks, and nobody knew about his status. The party started on a Saturday afternoon until the break of dawn. Perhaps, he was bidding them farewell before he went into isolation,” the source said.

Another source said the official had attended a colleague’s birthday party at the staff quarters. She said others left immediately after he blurted out his status at the party. About 20 members had attended the celebration.

“We are scared this could spread like a wildfire. We have more than 3 000 officials, including thousands of prisoners who could fall prey to the virus,” she said. 

Former Department of Correctional Services (DCS) member and community activist  Mervin Govender said red flags should have been raised when the member booked off sick. He said management had the capacity to investigate the absence of the member had he not followed the normal procedure to book for sick leave. 

“He should have been arrested because he knew that he was infected and still went on to infect others. He jeopardised the entire workforce, including the inmates, because the prison is overcrowded,” said Govender. 

DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo would not divulge much detail about the case, citing incidents of staff victimisation in provinces where cases have been reported previously.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the correctional services sector is standing at 709 with 236 officials and 473 inmates. The Western Cape recorded an additional three cases of officials and two inmates.

The Eastern Cape is leading the pack with 488 positive cases (75 officials; 413 inmates; 72 recoveries and two deaths).

The Western Cape has 197 cases (146 officials; 51 inmates; 53 recoveries and two deaths) while Gauteng is sitting with 16 cases (seven officials; 9 inmates and 10 recoveries).

Limpopo has two officials with one recovery while the Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have two officials. The Free State has one official, and head office has one official and one recovery.