In 2013 Wits Justice Project's Ruth Hopkins uncovered gross human right's violations in Mangaung prison in Bloemfontein, including electroshocking, forced injection with antipsychotic drugs, legnthy segregations and abuse at the hands of prison warders.
Investigative Journalism - Torture / Sexual Abuse
Inmates say they were given electric shocks and forcibly injected at the multinational security company’s Mangaung Correctional Centre, writes Ruth Hopkins
The Wits Justice Project (WJP) spoke to two activists who were tortured during apartheid and to two people who were victims of torture after 1994. Their stories are chillingly similar and point to a continuing and systemic indifference to this very grave human rights violation.
In March, Kgolofelu Khoza was allegedly chained in a crouching position to a door in an isolation unit – also known as the “bomb cells” – at Johannesburg Correctional Centre. He claims he was kept there for two days and a night.
I broke the story on a private prison in South Africa where guards inflicted horrendous abuse. But to really understand what happened, I needed to talk to the torturers themselves.
The inquest into Ahmed Timol’s death is important in the context of South African history as it provides an opportunity for us to understand the sacrifices past generations have made for this country so that we may improve it today. However, it also forces us to look at the use of torture in post-apartheid South Africa.
Anyone who still thinks SA’s prisons are luxury hotels should think again – particularly about the underlying reasons why inmates died, warders were critically injured and cells set alight during rioting at Leeuwkop, Krugersdorp, St Albans and Johannesburg (Sun City) prisons late last year.
Clearly the use of force behind bars is highly contentious. In terms of the law, the only permissible force is minimum or necessary force, used to stop or prevent a dangerous situation. Any other force is regarded as gratuitous, excessive and unlawful. Yet prison officials operating in the context of the prevailing culture of violence appear to resort to violence as a default position.
Having represented the torture-survivors for ten years with no remuneration, Egon Oswald has now lodged an application for leave to appeal Judge Dyalan Chetty’s decision to dismiss claims by Xolani Siko and Simphiwe Mbena - the first of 231 potential St Albans plaintiffs. If the plaintiffs’ application is successful, it could pave the way for one of the largest damages claims ever instituted against the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. On the other hand, Chetty’s judgement was more than damning in its criticism of both the claimants and the defense witnesses.
On a cold winter day in 2005, inmate Isaac Nelani asked wardens at Mangaung prison, run by British security firm G4S, for an extra blanket to keep him warm. The prison walls emitted a chill that crept into his joints and bones. Nelani, a 47-year old inmate at Mangaung prison, was HIV-positive, which made him more susceptible to the cold.