A LONG-term inmate at St Albans prison has sued the Minister of Safety and Security for R350000 after he was assaulted and kicked in the face during a search of his cell.
Mark Sias yesterday told the Port Elizabeth High Court that he was assaulted twice in the space of a few days and the attack, particularly the first one, had made him fearful and jittery.
The court did not hear what crimes he was sentenced for but he is serving 20 years' imprisonment.
Advocate Mncedisi Simoyi told the court that the Department of Correctional Services would deny liability for the assault. He said warders would testify that Sias was a rude and disrespectful prisoner.
"On the day of the assault he swore at a warder who lost his temper and hit him once with a clenched fist."
He said it was Correctional Services' case that the warder was provoked by Sias swearing at him. He also pointed out that the warders would testify correctional officers took him to hospital after the assault as he was bleeding.
Sias said that in June 2010 he was lying on his bed in the cell he shared with 39 other prisoners.
"The warders came into the cell," he said. "They said they were conducting a search. We were chased out of the cell. I sat in front of the door.
"One of the warders came out with a box that my friend asked me to look after while he was at church.
"I told the correctional officer that he could not search the box if the inmate was not present.
"The one warder cut open the box with a knife. He said to me: 'You are a clever one'. He then lifted me up and hit me in the face with his fist. I was bending over, as I was bleeding, and he kicked me in the face. He was wearing boots. He then pulled me into the bathroom and made me undress to check for tattoos.
"Then he told me: 'The road is long. We will see each other again'," Sias told the court. He then received treatment for his injuries.
He said he had been fearful since the assault. Two of his cell-mates are expected to give evidence to support his case today.
Sias said when he was unhappy about the way correctional officials had handled the internal investigation into the assault on him, he was beaten up again. "I only wanted to see the head of the prison," he said.
He told the court that when he demanded to be taken to the head of the prison, another warder swore at him and hit him with his fist.
"I always thought when I was incarcerated that I would be held in a place of safety," he said.
"I am still afraid when I look at a warder. I was in great pain. It took me weeks to recover."
He denied he was a problem prisoner. "If I was I would never have been classified as an A-group inmate," he said.
A-group inmates are the ones with the most privileges.
He said he laid charges of assault against both warders at the Kabega Park police station but never heard anything. Eventually when "people from parliament" came to visit the prison he told them of his problem.
"I was then taken to an office and showed a piece of a paper saying that the charges had been withdrawn," he said.
Simoyi said Correctional Services would also deny that Sias was assaulted a second time. He said Sias was merely rebuked and then dragged away as he was standing too close to a gate and this was against the rules.