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An awaiting-trial prisoner was allegedly assaulted by fellow inmates who cut both his ears and forced him to eat and swallow them.

The incident allegedly took place in the Mahwelereng Police Station holding cells on Tuesday in Limpopo Province.

The victim's lawyer, Klaas Madlanato, who spoke to Sowetan yesterday, was angry following the attack, which he said happened in front of police officers who did nothing to stop it.

Madlanato said he had visited his client, Japhta Lekgoara, 29, for a consultation on Tuesday afternoon and found him in pain.

He said upon inquiring, Lekgoara told him he was attacked by fellow inmates who used a razor blade to cut off his ears.

"My worry is that the attack happened inside the police holding cells, where we believe [he] would be protected," said Madlanato.

He said the fact that criminals could be attacked while in custody meant that they were not safe, "even in the hands of the police".

"Lekgoara told me that while bleeding after his ears had fallen to the ground inside the cells, he was ordered to pick [them up] and swallow them, which he did in fear for his own life," he added.

The lawyer said he was still deciding on what course of action to take against the police and the attackers.

He said Lekgoara was also severely assaulted and had bruises all over his body.

Lekgoara was arrested in Pretoria on Saturday on two counts of armed robbery with aggravating circumstances and two charges of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He was taken to Mahwelereng and appeared in the Mokerong Magistrate's Court.

Madlanato said his client told him he had assaulted his attackers in the past.

Acting commissioner at the Mahwelereng police station, Major Mapitsi Sekotlong, confirmed the incident.

"As police we are not going to pursue the matter because the victim has refused to open a case against his attackers," said Sekotlong.

She said police took Lekgoara to Mokopane Hospital for treatment after the attack.

A bandaged Lekgoara is currently back in the police cells.

Mokopane Hospital spokesman Malose Seko confirmed that Lekgoara was treated at the facility on Tuesday and discharged the same day.

"He was brought in by the police, bleeding and with both ears cut off. Medication was administered and he was discharged after the treatment."

Seko said when Lekgoara arrived he was in severe pain but after receiving medication, the pain seemed to subside and he was released into police custody.

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