/ 5 November 2013

Probe into Mangaung prison torture nearly complete

Forced anti-psychotics
Forced anti-psychotics

A two-pronged probe into a Wits Justice Project investigation into torture at Mangaung prison will be completed in the next two weeks, MPs heard on Tuesday.

Read more: 
Mangaung prison is a private hell
Mangaung prison: Drugs, shock and torture by 'ninjas'

Two investigations were running concurrently, acting correctional services director general Nontsikelelo Jolingana told Parliament's correctional services portfolio committee.

Under investigation were allegations that inmates at the privately-run maximum security centre were forcibly injected with anti-psychotic medication and electro-shocked to subdue and control them.

"We are having an investigation that is looking at healthcare issues, and we are also having an investigation that is looking at security issues," Jolingana said.

The probe into healthcare issues would cover the alleged torture of inmates.

"We are expecting the healthcare investigation report to be submitted to us on the eighth of this month, and the one that is covering broader security issues to be submitted to us on November 15," she said.

Private security company G4S, which operated the prison, has denied the torture claims.

Private prison
G4S has a 20% stake in the Bloemfontein Corrections Consortium, which was awarded a 25-year contract to run the prison from 2000 to 2025.

On October 9, prior to the torture allegations surfacing, the correctional services department took over the running of the facility, Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, who was also present at the briefing, told MPs.

In terms of the Correctional Services Act, the department could appoint one of its senior officials to run a public-private partnership (PPP) centre if the contractor had lost, or was likely to lose, control of such a facility.

This was, at present, only a temporary arrangement.

The facility had been plagued by controversy following prison riots, stabbings, and a hostage situation.

"This PPP experiment seems to be showing that the desired results are not being realised, and [the department] will continue to engage all affected parties," Ndebele said.

Democratic Alliance MP James Selfe questioned department officials on why they did not have a handle on the situation before taking over the running of the centre.

"The [Correctional Services] Act makes provision for a controller, a person from [the department], who is … supposed to maintain oversight over the way the prison is run on behalf of the department.

"I want to know what this controller was doing, because these things were happening in the prison [and] nobody in [the department] apparently knew about it," Selfe said.

Jolingana confirmed that the department's controller was under investigation.

"Indeed, the controller was supposed to inform the department, and as these incidents are coming to the fore we realised there are things the controller was supposed to do that were not done," she said.

ANC MP Miriam Phaliso expressed disgust at the treatment of inmates at both Mangaung and the country's other privately-run facility, Kutama Sinthumula prison in Limpopo.

Phaliso said there was a disturbing incident MPs encountered while visiting prisons in Limpopo, and to which the department had not responded.

"What was the outcome of that investigation of an inmate that was pulled with his private parts like a dog you pull with a rope on the neck? How will you rehabilitate this person if you are pulling him with his private parts?" The department had no response to the incident.

Phaliso said the visit to Mangaung prior to the department taking control of the facility was equally disturbing, because of the attitude of a G4S manager who was apparently against MPs conducting an oversight visit.

"He made even made us understand this is our space, it's not in Parliament.

He said that to us," Phaliso said.

She said MPs would not back down from oversight visits, because the privately-run prisons were funded with taxpayers' money.

Phaliso said the PPPs posed a huge risk.

Money was being spent on the private prisons, which could have been spent on improving appalling conditions at other jails in the country.  – Sapa