Westville prison videos expose lawlessness

Westville Prison in Durban has come under the spotlight after two videos surfaced on social media prompting an investigation into the open use of drugs in the prison.

One cellphone video show Ruwain Meer snorting a white powder, possibly cocaine, from a plate and another of him dancing while prison warders look on.

Prisoners’ rights organisations have said they doubt the violence and corruption in the prisons will improve as third video has been discovered which shows warders giving batons to the inmates during a fight.

Justice minister Ronald Lamola has requested an urgent investigation into which correctional service officials were on duty and whether disciplinary action had been taken against them.

Lamola said this lawless behaviour cannot be tolerated and an institution which is meant to rehabilitate inmates cannot be allowed to be a hive of lawlessness.

According to the SA Prisoners’ Organisation for Human Rights spokesperson Golden Miles Bhudu the prison system has collapsed. During apartheid the system was enforced and prisons were strict, brutal and often inhumane but the new prison system promotes violence, gang rape and torture as a means to resolve conflict.

Bhudu, a former convict who was released in 1991, said that Lamola faces many challenges and will need to rethink the prison system.