Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

More than 1‚200 inmates at the Middledrift prison in the Eastern Cape have been without water for the past three days — with the situation now so bad that some are urinating in the corners of their cells.

The prison‚ the oldest in the province‚ was the maximum prison for the Ciskei homeland. Currently run and managed by the Department of Correctional Services‚ it is a prison for male offenders.

One of the inmates who contacted TimesLIVE said they were told by the officials that the water pipeline for the prison was last fixed more than 30 years ago. "This is not the first time we are running out of water in this prison; this happened two times last year already. Old pipelines that the department is failing to fix are causing these problems."

The inmate charged that the department would only act when this becomes catastrophic, saying, "One of the basic human rights is to have water‚ even if you are an offender‚ government has to provide you with water and food‚ and it is your right. But this prison has been without water since Monday and this can lead to deadly diseases."

He said inmates don’t have water to drink‚ to wash or to flush their toilets‚ or to clean the floors.

The department’s provincial spokesperson Nobuntu Gantana confirmed that the prison was without water but said the department was doing its best to provide for inmates. She said the cause was a burst water pipe to the prison from two supplier pipelines.

"The prison is supported by water from the Sandile and Binfield Park dams. Sandile dam has since been fixed and maintenance staff are currently fixing the Binfield Park dam‚" said Gantana, promising that water would be back on by 2pm on Thursday. "Water tanks have been used to supply water to the centre and another was from the municipality to assist."

But when Sunday Times called the inmates at about 3.30pm‚ they stated that the taps were still dry. The inmates allege that water is only transported into the prison for the officials and for cooking.

"This is done not for our hygiene or health; these trucks are carting water in for them to drink and to cook at their quarters. Not a single official can come and spend a single minute in these cells. We are living like pigs and we have no water to do anything‚" an inmate said.

The inmates sent pictures of toilets covered with towels and blankets to prevent them from being used. "We have to cover them so the inmates can’t use them as they are full already. This is bad for human beings and we can’t go out there to the fields to use them as some of us can find a space to escape‚" said the inmate.

The inmates are using a few toilets and have to queue there early to use them.

Gantana said there are contingency plans in place.

Last November, the prison was faced with a similar situation after it was without water for more than a week. Water had to be brought in from a nearby reservoir.