Inmates send strong message to warders after prison death
Pass the food please but keep the poison.
This was the strong message that concerned prisoners who suspect an inmate who died in jail last week Wednesday was poisoned, wished to pass to their hostile warders.
The angry inmates were last week up in arms in protest against the death of their fellow prisoner, Chebukani Sibanda who succumbed to “stomach pains” under dubious circumstances after breakfast.
The disgruntled prisoners who had threatened to riot had to be calmed down by a visit from the prison top man, Commander of Southern Division, Senior Assistant Commissioner Nto Tumeletso who in his address promised to conduct a through investigation into the matter.
Sibanda, 36, collapsed after eating breakfast and writhed in pain for eight hours while other prisoners helplessly watched.
Instead of being taken to the hospital right away, Sibanda was taken to solitary confinement where inmates suspect he died.
“ It was heartbreaking and traumatizing to watch him writhing in pain like a snake until he was unconscious. We screamed for the warders and banged on the doors for the officials to come but no one seemed to be bothered, ” said a distraught source that said that although they calmed down after the address they were still pondering the credibility of a prison department investigating itself effectively.
When the prison supervisor finally came, he simply talked of how Sibanda was a tough Zimbabwean who couldn’t be killed by stomach pains and ordered that the man be bundled up to solitary confinement because he was planning to escape. This was the same man that was being sued by Sibanda for P1million for assault so we were not surprised by his flippant response,” the angry inmate narrated.
“ In the evening we saw him being carried away to the hospital in a blanket, so we suspect he was dead already, the source revealed in an interview.
The 36 –year-old prisoner who was on remand for a robbery charge had filed a P1 million lawsuit against the Commissioner of Prisons and Attorney General.
Court papers filed by his lawyer Unangoni Tema of Tema and Associates had indicated that on the 22nd of April 2016, Sibanda was taken in for questioning by four prison warders who suspected him of unlawful possession of a mobile phone.
When their search yielded no results the warders allegedly assaulted him with clenched fists, slapped him with open hands, kicked him with boots and hit him all over the body with batons whilst handcuffed from the back.
Sibanda further claims in the court papers to have been detained in a solitary confinement cell known as, “Spil die’ for four days without water, food, blankets and access to medical treatment.
As a result, he suffered a fractured right arm and was referred to hospital for treatment.
His lawyer told of how his client on the day he died was reported to have complained of stomach problems around 0800hrs in the morning.
“ To my shock, and horror after I was made aware that he has been reported sick to Superintendent Khutsafalo who was on duty, the prison officer did not take any action and instead ridiculed my client.
“He was only taken to the hospital in the evening around 2100hrs and I suspect that by then he was already dead,” said Tema.
At the time of going to Press, Tema was waiting for the deceased’s family to establish the cause of death.
“We will review the autopsy results and see what action to take because it is clear there was a gross negligence on the part of the warder. My client died under questionable circumstances and I have been told that he ate something that was provided to him. So we can’t rule out poisoning from somebody within prison,” he said.
When contacted for comment, Superintendent Khutsafalo and Divisional Commander, Senior Assistant Commissioner Tumeletso referred all queries to the Public Relations Department.
Prisons spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Wamorena Ramolefhe confirmed the incident but refused to divulge details saying matters relating to Sibanda’s health or death have not been communicated with his family yet.
“We are still waiting for them and only after we have met with them can we release whatever information that will be available to you”