Still no progress on Mangaung prison abuse claims

Tebogo Meje

“When we arrived there, they took off my shirt and my trousers. I was only left with my underwear.” -Tebogo Meje

“A year ago, the Mail & Guardian published the results of a 12-month investigation by the Wits Justice Project into the Mangaung prison in the Free State, run by British security firm G4S. The investigation alleged that inmates were routinely electroshocked, forcibly injected with anti-psychotic drugs and illegally isolated for long periods. Despite promises from the previous minister of correctional services, Sbu Ndebele, to “leave no stone unturned” and his outcry that “the privatisation of prisons has failed”, a year later nothing has happened.

Addressing national assembly’s portfolio committee on correctional services on Tuesday, Zach Modise, the acting national commissioner of correctional services, said the reason for the delay was that G4S still hadn’t responded to the findings of the investigation…”

Ruth Hopkins’ recent piece on the Mail & Guardian looks at what has happened (or rather not happened) since the publication of a 12-month investigation into allegations of solitary confinement, electroshocking, and forced injections with anti-psychotic drugs from inmates held at the G4S-run prison, Mangaung, in Bloemfontein. Read the follow up here.

Related Readings:

Privatisation of prisons has ‘failed’

G4S accused of holding South African prisoners in isolation illegally

South Africa takes over G4S prison after concerns


Carolyn Raphaely talks to Channel 199 on SA prison conditions and treatment of disabled prisoners

Carolyn-001On 15 October 2014, WJP senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely joined Katy Katopodis at Oscar Pistorius Trial Channel 199, to talk about South African prison conditions and the treatment of disabled prisoners. Watch the video here.

Statement on Allegation Made Against the Wits Justice Project by Acting National Commissioner Zach Modise

Wits Justice ProjectOn Thursday, 16 October 2014, acting national commissioner Zach Modise made spurious allegations against the Wits Justice Project, while giving testimony during the Oscar Pistorius sentencing hearing. You can read the Wits Justice Project statement responding to these allegations, here.


Between the saxophone and the machine gun

Photo: Emil Williams

Photo: Emil Williams

“THE HISTORIC suburb of Sophiatown, on the westerly side of Johannesburg, was formed in the early 1900s when a spectaculor, Mr Tobiansky, bought the 237 acres that would become a byword for jazz, gangsterism and host the editorial heart of the infamous DRUM magazine. He named the plot “Sophiatown”, after his wife…

The removal of black residents from Sophiatown and the Western Areas became a government priority, as it steamrolled opposition from a wide range of civic actors and overruled the less vocal but similarly reluctant Johannesburg City Council…

Until 1955, Sophiatown was a community rich in intellectual debate, music, journalism and freedom of association. But, as in any area where resources are scarce and the population is large (and growing), crime was a large part of Sophiatown residents’ experiences – whether as victims or profiteers…”

Read WJP Researcher, Robyn Leslie’s article, tracing Sophiatown’s origins and the history of crime in the suburb, published by the Saturday Star, here. Part II of the story will appear in the Saturday Star on 18 October 2014. Also visit Sophiatown: A Critical Mess? for more on the project.

Spotlight on South Africa Prisons


Leeuwkop Prison

“There are many pieces of new legislation that aim to eradicate South Africa’s key remand detention headaches, including over-crowding, access to health care, and abuse behind bars. Some of these laws have been effective: the recently implemented law that demands the referral of remand detainees who have been awaiting trial for more than two years back to court for re-examination of their matters is a great step forward.

However, other laudable policy decisions have struggled to be implemented, or still have big loopholes that negatively affect that care of this category of inmates. For example, while policy stipulates all remand detainees must undergo a medical exam as soon as possible after admission, this is sometimes too late to prevent infection in the case of communicable disease (like tuberculosis)…”

Read WJP researcher, Robyn Leslie’s guest post as it appeared on Fair Trials International. The piece looks at South African prisons, paying close attention to remand detention.


Police are the new criminals to fear


Eva Hoossen and son, Noor (Photo: Koko Bassey)

“They assaulted me in the car,” Noor explained in his mother’s tiny flat. When they arrived at the Sophiatown police station, Noor was taken to a police cell where another man was already handcuffed. The officers cuffed Noor’s hands and feet and made both men lie on their stomach. “The JMPD officer told the SAPS officers that I had stolen R29 000 and 10 rounds of ammunition from his house. Then they all go very excited.”

Noor said the police took out their pistols and told them: “Julle gaan sien, julle tsotsies (you will see, you thugs). This is the new Sophiatown.” They pushed the other to the floor and pulled his handcuffed arms up behind his back, then they kicked him in the lower back. A plastic bag was pulled over his head, which they tightened with a seatbelt.

“They told me to ‘watch this’. They said we both had to speak the truth and that I would be next. It was live theatre for them,” said Noor.

Read senior journalist, Ruth Hopkin’s article on gruesome acts of police brutality, printed by the Saturday Star, here. The story reveals gross violations of human rights, disregard and disrespect of the law by those entrusted to uphold the law, and high levels of impunity within the SAPS.


One man’s long walk home


Leeuwkop Medium C Correctional Centre (Photo: Kyla Herrmannsen)

“…One night, on 31 August 2007, Sithole did not come home. His uncle was instantly alarmed. “When he phoned me and told me he had been arrested, I was shocked,” he says.

Sithole was walking down Elise Road in Randburg when a male and female police officer stopped him. The man pointed a gun at him. “Tell me where your friends are’, she asked me,” said Sithole, who is currently serving a 15-year sentence at Leeuwkop prison in Bryanston.

Sithole was accused of playing a part in an attempted hijacking or ‘driveway robbery’ on nearby Gemsbok Road in Robinhills.”

Thuba Sithole’s case is one riddled with inconsistencies, lack of concrete evidence, poor legal representation, just to name a few. On 31 August 2007, Sithole happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and as a result, spent five years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Read our latest piece detailing events that led to Sithole’s wrongful conviction- written by senior journalist Ruth Hopkins and former journalism intern, Kyla Herrmannsen – as it appeared on the Daily Maverick, here. It Could Be You.


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