Deadly KZN prison riot linked to Zuma jailing, MPs told

Correctional Services said that the attempted mass prison breakout involved nearly 200 remand detainees.

A file image of prisoner.  Picture: Christa Eybers/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - A deadly prison riot in KwaZulu-Natal was linked to the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma, a top Correctional Services official has told Parliament.

It’s also been revealed that two inmates died in the incident on 12 July, which began with a fire at the Umzinto Correctional Centre on the province’s south coast.

Correctional Services said that the attempted mass prison breakout involved nearly 200 remand detainees.

More details emerged during a meeting of Parliament’s Justice oversight committee on Wednesday.

“About 193 inmates, they torched the facility and they also burnt our logistics division. Fortunately, we didn’t have any escapes.”

Department of Correctional Services’ acting chief operations commissioner, Phiko Mbambo, told MPs how police could not navigate barricaded roads in their vehicles and arrived by helicopter instead.

“They used their chopper. That helped a lot because we were able to contain the situation.”

Mbambo held back from going into details about what he said was a planned mass escape, as an investigation was under way. But he said that there were some leads.

"Already there is a person who has indicated that he is the one who started this, he is not hiding that - and also other inmates in cell one have confirmed that.

“And there are clues that he is not operating in isolation, he is operating with people outside - it is linked to the former president’s incarceration."

At the time, the Department of Correctional Services reported one death, due to an inmate falling from a roof.

“But the reality is the facility now is damaged and 191 inmates, we had to transfer them to Westville [correctional centre] – because two lost their lives during the process of this riot, or uprising. They wanted to escape, there was going to be a mass escape there."

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.