ONE inmate was killed and another is fighting for his life in hospital after violence between two rival gangs broke out at an Eastern Cape correctional centre at the weekend.
More than 30 members from the notorious 26s and 28s gangs are alleged to have been involved in the fight that broke out at the Mdantsane prison in NU13, East London.
It is alleged that gang members had been arguing while locked in an overcrowded cell when the lights were switched off. Using knives and other sharpened objects, the two sides attacked each other, resulting in the death of one, serious injury to another and lighter injuries to a further 17 inmates.
A prison official who was present but did not want to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said the violence had been brewing for months.
"We saw it coming and there was nothing the warders could do to stop it. The knives that were used were smuggled in," he said.
"More than 30 of these inmates fought in the dark and when officials came to calm them down it was too late."
The deceased cannot be named until his next of kin are informed. He was 24 years old and was serving 25 years for murder.
The Department of Correctional Services and the police said they were investigating.
"We are short of [staff] members and some of the hardened criminals have noticed that and they are taking advantage," said a prison official, who also requested anonymity.
"They [the prisoners] are constantly testing our strength and we are failing as prison officials. We can't control them any more."