Durban inmates drink & watch English football on contraband devices

A investigation into prison violence has revealed that gangsterism is a problem in SA's correctional centres. (Photo: Jonathan Lenning for

A investigation into prison violence has revealed that gangsterism is a problem in SA’s correctional centres. (Photo: Jonathan Lenning for

The chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on correctional services, Vincent Smith, has said committee members receive late-night calls from Durban Westville inmates who boast of drinking expensive alcohol and watching football on mobile satellite TV devices. Smith said this suggested collusion between inmates and correctional officials.

According to The Star, Smith was speaking during a session where a Department of Correctional Services team reported back on investigations into violence at Groenpunt, Pollsmoor and St Alban’s prisons earlier this year.

The DCS team, led by Western Cape Regional Commissioner Delekile Klaas, told the committee that the violence could be blamed on “frustrated offenders”, gangsterism and failure to implement “gang-management strategy”.

Klaass said gangsterism is rife and the DCS is focusing on dealing with 20 of the worst sites (out of the department’s 149 correctional centres). He said KwaZulu-Natal is the worst affected province with 57% of all the reported prison gangsterism incidents occurring there.

Klaas also said Pollsmoor Prison is replacing glass windows and bed bases, after weapons made from these items were used in a gang fight in January this year. Ten inmates were injured. One of the inmates was stabbed 21 times and is still hospitalised.

An unbreakable polycarbon material is being used to replace glass windows in Medium A, which houses young offenders. The factory which makes the beds is altering them so that pieces can’t be broken off and used to make weapons.

Related videos

Watch this excellent BBC/Discovery Channel documentary (broken up into short clips) about Joanna Thomas, who risked her life to conduct conflict resolution workshops with rival Numbers Gang members in Pollsmoor Prison. Can the gangsters really change?

Part 1  Meet Mogamat, a 28s gang “general” whose file is marked “Notorious – Dangerous”; Erefaan, who has killed other inmates; and a warder who is a murder target.

Part 2  Joanna starts her workshops, while gangsters try to kill her.

Part 3 Mogamat reflects on his life in this moving episode. Released inmates face life outside.

Part 4  Mogamat’s family is scared when his charges are dropped and he returns home.

Part 5  A doctor offers to remove Erefaan’s tattoos – including his “I hate you mother” tattoo.

Related articles

Sipho’s story – read about a member of the notorious 28s gang.

Read Wikipedia’s article on South Africa’s “Numbers Gang”.

Prison Ink: photos of SA prison gang members and their tattoos.


About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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