A former pupil convict at Vulamasango, a school for juvenile offenders in Swaziland, has described it as being like ‘hell on earth’.
The Observer on Saturday newspaper (6 May 2017) in Swaziland reported, ‘While there he has experienced, first hand, brutal deaths, stabbings, tortures that remain irascible in his memory and is most likely to carry to his final resting place. In the case of the learner who died in the cells called dormitories he had been subjected to severe beatings two days earlier and when he died on the third day his death was dissociated from the beatings.’
The newspaper reported, ‘Corporal punishment is nothing closer to rehabilitation, says the pupil. Hordes of warders descend on their victim like a swarm of vultures, beating the daylights out of their captive as though themselves relieving themselves of their many stresses. They beat the victim until some even soil and urinate themselves. At times the uniform is removed to inflict the injuries on bear flesh, adds the pupil.’
The newspaper did not name the former pupil.
Vulamasango was until August 2015 known as Malkerns Industrial School. In March 2014 an inspection report called Malkerns Industrial School Students Violence Probe was leaked to the Observer on Saturday.
The report said warders at the juvenile jail stripped naked, handcuffed and beat children in their care. They inserted fingers into girls’ private parts and forced one boy to drink his own urine. The revelations followed reports in 2013 that warders at the same juvenile jail assaulted children systematically for more than five hours.
The Observer reported there was violence at Malkerns Industrial School on 18 June 2013, when one of the boys fought and stabbed another offender with a sharpened toothbrush.
The newspaper reported, ‘The aggressor was instantly beaten without a hearing and all boys known to be his friends were handcuffed and beaten in the still of the night.’
It added, ‘The next morning all teachers were ordered to conduct a strip search, apparently an order coming from the commissioner himself who is alleged to have said ‘uma kufanele, isende lomntwana alibanjwe’ (squeeze their testicles).’
The Observer said the investigation reported there was sporadic use of force at the juvenile industrial school dormitories, ‘which is protected by the head-teacher and remains unreported mainly because the administration also participates in the violence’.
The Observer reported that female correction officers, ‘inserted their fingers into the girls’ private parts using one glove on all the students, exposing them to risks of contracting infectious diseases’.
The newspaper also reported that one child, ‘was beaten such that he urinated and was later forced to drink his urine.
‘“I drank it because of the beatings I received,” the boy reportedly said.
Another child said, ‘My hands and testicles were pressed by the officers who were wearing their boots I thought they were killing me. My only sin was that they found tattoos on my body.’
The Observer reported another child said, ‘I was bleeding from the ears after I was kicked all over the body by the officers.’
This was not the first time violent behaviour by warders hit the headlines. In 2013 it was reported that children at the industrial school were systematically assaulted for more than five hours by warders.
Some of the children were forced to strip naked for beatings by the officers who used belts, sneakers, open hands and feet to assault them all over their bodies.
The Swazi News newspaper reported at the time that 15 officers were involved and more than two thirds of the 430 pupils at the school were assaulted from 8.30 am until after 2.00 pm, during one day. One child interviewed by the newspaper said, ‘They were using belts, open hands and an All-Star (sneaker). We were ordered to strip naked before being assaulted all over the body, indiscriminately.’
The attack was also described by another as being worse than police torture known as ‘lishubhu’. Another said, ‘Besi bulawa (we were being murdered).’
When asked why they were assaulted, one pupil responded, ‘Watsi lomunye thishela basi faka luvalo (one of the teachers told us that they were instilling fear).’
The pupils said they did not report the matter to the police because they feared being victimised.
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