Man sues prison authorities for multi-millions

17 August 2021 | Justice

Windhoek • [email protected]

An inmate and alleged prison gang member is suing prison authorities including seven prison officers for N$35 million, claiming he was blinded in one eye after prison guards refused to intervene in a fight between inmates.
Eben Cloete’s handwritten particulars of claim allege that on 24 March last year, he begged prison guards to stop a fight that had erupted between two inmates. He alleges that at least four prison officers stood by while the fight took place, and he eventually decided to personally try and stop the fight while they turned a blind-eye.
He says at this point he was “stabbed with a metal sharpened object” in his left eye, which blinded him.
He is asking that the court award him damages for the violation of his constitutional rights to protection of life and the loss of his eye sight amounting to N$30 million, plus an additional N$5 million for the pain and suffering he sustained between being stabbed and healing from his injuries.
In their defence, the nine defendants, including the Ministry of Safety and Security, the head of the correctional services and several prison officials, deny that they are liable for his loss of eyesight and for being grossly negligent.
In a plea document submitted to court, the defendants claim the fight was “presumed to be a gang-related altercation” and took place in a prison cell while the officers accused of turning a blind eye to the incident where stationed in the dining hall of the prison.
“The plaintiff (Cloete) in an attempt to stop an attack on his fellow gang member and/or inmate, was stabbed by the rival gang member and/or inmate”, prison authorities claim. They claim that the stabbing took place in a cell in the absence of prison guards who were “serving food to the inmates at the time.”
Prison authorities also deny that Cloete or any other inmate approached them for help.
“It is submitted that only after the plaintiff was injured did he alert the members at the dining hall about the incident.”
In his response to the plea, Cloete claimed that the officers were near the cell where the fight broke out, and not the dining hall and that he would prove his allegations before court.
On Monday, the case was postponed to 13 September for a status hearing before High Court judge Herman Oosthuizen.
Cloete has applied for a legal aid lawyer, while the defendants are represented by government attorney Mkhululi Khupe.

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