The owners of a private maximum security prison in Louis Trichardt have been ordered to pay R200 000 in damages to an inmate who is serving a life sentence for murder and rape after he was severely assaulted by a group of guards five years ago.
Judge Nomsa Khumalo ordered South African Custodial Management, which operates the Kutama Sinthumule Maximum Security Prison in Louis Trichardt, to compensate prisoner Takalani Neluheni for his ordeal at the hands of prison guards, who unlawfully assaulted him in February 2011.
Neluheni, who arrived at the prison in 2010, sustained bruises, abrasions and injuries to his private parts when a group of nine prison guards came to his cell and assaulted him.
He told the court he was forced to undress before a prison guard searched him anally, he was smacked in the face and one guard jumped on his private parts. His hands were cuffed behind his back and his legs shackled before he was thrown down a staircase. He was then grabbed by the legs and dragged with his head bumping against the staircase before being put in solitary confinement for 42 days. He said he was kept in segregation most of the time, although he was “not a violent person”, never instigated a fight and felt prison officials just wanted to humiliate him and destroy him mentally.
He claimed his tea was at one stage poisoned and that he was fed ARVs and told he was “crazy” when he complained about it. Although Neluheni complained to a prison doctor that he had been assaulted and his injuries were noted in a report, the prison denied that he was assaulted at all.
They insisted Neluheni, who had 11 previous convictions for assault, was a violent troublemaker who tried to set his cell alight, assaulted two prison guards and had to be brought under control.
Neluheni was charged with assaulting the guards, but was later acquitted.
Judge Khumalo accepted Neluheni’s evidence, although she said he was clearly bitter and tended to exaggerate.
She rejected the evidence of the prison officials as contradictory and said they had clearly loathed Neluheni and fabricated a version to cover up the assault.