Tortured Mangaung prisoners seek justice

Photo: Mail & Guardian

Photo: Mail & Guardian


British security firm G4S, which runs Bloemfontein’s Mangaung prison, has denied lawyers access to a prisoner who claims to have been shot in the head with a rubber bullet by a warder.

The reason given by the prison is that the inmate, BM (he cannot be named), doesn’t know the lawyers who work for the Legal Resources Centre (LRC).

Several months ago, prisoner Captain Rampa contacted the Wits Justice Project about the plight of his friend and cellmate, BM.

Rampa wrote that on September 16 2013, BM had lost sight in his left eye as a result of being shot in the head with a rubber bullet. The Wits Justice Project has seen medical files and internal prison communications confirming these injuries …

Sayi Nindi, an LRC attorney, said: “Our clients have compelling cases of torture against G4S and the DCS. The harm they suffered completely goes against our Constitution. We hope the courts can grant them justice.”

In the case of prisoner BM, it is the third time G4S has barred prisoners from accessing legal counsel.


Click here to read senior journalist – Ruth Hopkins’ – article about recurring refusal of legal representation to inmates serving their sentences at the notorious G4S-run Mangaung prison in Bloemfontein. The piece also writes about lack of accountability for routine assaults, torture, lengthy isolation, and antipsychotic medication experienced by inmates at the hands of the prison’s emergency security team. Download the PDF version as it appeared in the print edition of the Mail & Guardian.


Related Readings:

Lawyers refused prison access to tortured inmates

G4S abuses in South African prison still ignored

G4S accused of ‘torturing inmates to death’ in South Africa

Mangaung Prison is a Private Hell

Privatisation of prisons has ‘failed’

[GALLERY] JfB series culminates in bold & innovative ideas

Robust, audacious, and daring ideas, on fixing South Africa’s criminal justice system, concluded this year’s Justice for Breakfast (JfB) roundtable series. The event was hosted, on November 25, by the Wits Justice Project in partnership with the Wits School of Governance and the Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa. People with an interest in the criminal justice system shared their different perspectives and ideas on how to create social cohesion. An outcomes document for this event will be available soon, and an anthology for all of 2015’s four JfB roundtable events early next year. In the meanwhile, click on each picture to view the slideshow of some of the pictures from the event.














Clogged court rolls addressed at first ever case flow conference

Simoniah 2

The Wits Justice Project’s Simoniah Mashangoane was asked to speak at the inaugural Court and Case Flow Management Africa Conference held in Johannesburg last week.

Simoniah, representing the WJP, was one of the only speakers focussing on issues faced by inmates and detainees on the ground. Her presentation highlighted the cases of four former inmates, Dudley Lee, Thembekile Molaudzi, Thuba Sithole and David Mkhwanazi, who were all victims of inefficiency in the court system.

Speaking of the WJP’s investigation into these cases, and many others of this nature, Simoniah urged conference attendees to concentrate not only on statistics but also on the faces behind stories of injustice.

“I would encourage participants to really look at these case studies and keep them in mind during the conference. If we are truly interested in seeing changes in the criminal justice system then we cannot look at numbers or policy in the abstract. We will only see real change when we start with the people affected by the system.”

The aim of the two-day conference was to discuss methods of addressing the serious problem of overloaded court rolls, with specific reference to remand detainees, and to make room for discussion about corruption in South Africa’s criminal justice system.

According to a National Efficiency Enhancement Committee (NEEC) report presented by Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), 77% of time lost at courts is because of unavailable parties. This includes the accused, legal representative or witness not showing up, and even missing or unavailable court documents.

All of these factors contribute to people like Dudley, Thembikile, Thuba, David and many more remaining behind bars for unnecessarily lengthy periods of time, sometimes for crimes they did not commit.

Advocate Mzinyathi noted that while many gains have been made to combat both congestion and corruption, there is still much work to be done, by all parties, to ensure the system works in the best interests of the country.

WJP ringing out the year on 3 high notes



The WJP team is gearing up for a jam-packed week of stimulating debates and exciting training workshops. From the 24th to the 26th of November, we’ll be ringing out the year on a high note with three fantastic events.

Citizen Justice Network (CJN) Training

This three-day workshop will kick off on November 24th and conclude on November 26th. The training will bring together ten paralegals from Gauteng, Free State, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo. Over the course of three days, they will be equipped with the necessary skills to investigate and broadcast underreported stories of miscarriages of justice in their respective communities. Find the event’s programme here.

Justice for Breakfast Roundtable –  SpeakEasy: If I Could Do It My Way

 The final Justice for Breakfast session for 2015 will open up space for innovative ideas –  from various stakeholders in criminal justice, civil society, academia, –  that would bring about transformation and solve critical problems in the criminal justice system. With over 60 RSVPs already, the event promises to deliver robust discussions. This roundtable event will take place on November 25th and is in partnership with the Wits School of Governance and the Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa. RSVP to:

WJP Media training for NGO communicators

On November 26th, we will conclude our series of events with WJP’s media training for NGO communicators. The training aims to foster media and communication skills for development communicators working for NGOs and CSOs, initially offered to members of the Detention Justice Forum (DJF) on whose coordinating committee the WJP sits. Find the programme for the training here.

WJP recognised once again at the 2015 Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist Awards

Senior journalist Carolyn Raphaely with Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, after the award ceremony.


Congratulations to Carolyn Raphaely, Senior Journalist at the WJP, who was the runner up in this year’s Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year Awards.

The article, “11-year battle to prove innocence takes its toll”, was entered into the print category and tells the story of Thembekile Molaudzi, a man who spent 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Thembekile was accused of murdering a police officer and ultimately convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The only evidence against him was recanted hearsay evidence of a co-accused which the Constitutional Court later ruled was unconstitutional. Armed with only a grade 10 education and certain of his innocence, Thembekile taught himself the law and fought tirelessly to win his freedom.

Carolyn’s work at the WJP highlights the important role of investigative journalism in exposing miscarriages of justice in South Africa. It also highlights the potential impact of stories like Thembekile’s, which help to create a more informed discourse about crime and prisons.

“Occasionally, in life you meet someone who changes the way you think, who shifts your perspective,” says Carolyn, “I never expected to find that person wearing orange overalls behind the bars of Zonderwater prison. Yet Thembekile Molaudzi – a man who never should have been there in the first place – has taught me an inordinate amount about life, the law, patience, persistence, and most importantly forgiveness.”

We are very proud of Carolyn who, by now, has several awards under her belt. She was Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year in 2011 and also runner-up in 2012.

Founded in 1999, the Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year Award aims to recognise excellence in the field of legal reporting and especially journalists who strive to illuminate problems within South Africa’s criminal justice system.

Are you a Wonder Woman or Superman? Join the Justice team today

Justice_League_Group (1)

Do you dream of spending your days fighting for justice?

Are you interested in changing the world, one hard-hitting investigative story at a time?

Does the thought of running an NGO leave you smiling from ear to ear?

Yes? Then the Wits Justice Project is for you!

We are looking for a new Project Coordinator to lead our team of superstar journalists and researchers from 1 January 2016.


  • Postgraduate degree preferably in relevant fields such as journalism or law.
  • Understanding of the media and/or law an advantage.
  • 5-plus years’ leadership experience in NGO sector.
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills.
  • Proven ability to persuade and to govern an independent-minded team through consensus and cooperation.
  • Expert analytical skills and ability to make strategic and operational decision.
  • Passion, idealism, integrity, positive attitude, mission-driven, and self-directed.


  • Strategic direction, planning, decision-making and implementation.
  • Donor relations and fundraising.
  • Advocacy and stakeholder relations.
  • Project planning, budgeting, management and monitoring.

Interested? Submit a letter of motivation and detailed CV, with the names, contact numbers and email addresses of three referees.

Closing date: 20 November 2015

View the full job advertisement here.

For inquiries about the position contact Anton Harber at

Learn more about our hardworking, dynamic and talented team, and about the work we do, at .

Retraction: Department of Correctional Services did not refer death of an inmate to the police

Mangaung Prison


On 21 October 2015, the Press Ombudsman, Johan Retief, ruled on a complaint [read complaint here & here] by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) against the Mail and Guardian about the article Prison inmate ‘tortured to death’ – Chilling new claims of inmate abuse at the embattled Mangaung prison are emerging published on September 4 2015. A sidebar, reporting the DCS’s response, was headlined Slow progress in leaving ‘no stone unturned’.

Retief ruled that the statement in the article that the death of in custody of inmate Tebogo Bereng was referred to police should be retracted. Such a referral had not, in fact, been confirmed by either the DCS or by any other source.

The Mail & Guardian apologises for the error.

Retief dismissed five other complaints by DCS, in which the department had alleged an “intentional, and negligent, departure from the facts”.

In October 2013, the M&G published [Part I, II, III, IV] the results of a year-long investigation by Ruth Hopkins of the Wits Justice Project into allegations that Mangaung prison in Bloemfontein, run by British security firm G4S, had been forcibly injecting inmates with anti-psychotic medication, and had been using electric shocks and torture. The then minister of correctional services, S’bu Ndebele, committed to a full investigation and a report to be made public within 30 days.

As reported in the September 4 article, about which the DCS had complained, such an investigation has still not been finalised, nor a report published.

Complaints dismissed by the ombud included that Hopkins qualified DCS’ failure to finalise the report as ‘slow progress’; that Hopkins noted that despite DCS’ knowledge of the abuse, it handed back control of the prison to G4S in August 2014; and that DCS was unable to confirm if or when the report will be published.

Visit for the full finding.

Read the Wits Justice Project’s response, here.


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