Pretoria – The department of correctional services on Monday accused prisoner rights activist Golden Miles Bhudu of the South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR) “and other individuals” of instigating inmates to revolt.
“This is totally irresponsible and reckless, and there is no need for such. The department is currently engaging with relevant law enforcement agencies to take necessary action.
Following this incitement, inmates at Baviaanspoort medium correctional centre in Gauteng, became disruptive, with one inmate lying on his back and refusing to move into his cell,” the department’s spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said.
He said correctional officials had to use “minimum force in order to bring about amity” and order was restored.
Nxumalo said reports of an inmate being shot at are only a fabrication as officials did not use firearms inside the correctional centres.
“Two inmates were treated for minor injuries by our health care officials and they are back in their cells. This incident has been reported accordingly to the relevant authorities and investigations are currently under way,” he said.
“We will continue embarking on random search and seizure operations across the country to confiscate contrabands from inmates and to ensure that rogue officials who aide the smuggling of those contrabands in our facilities are exposed and ultimately prosecuted.”
On Monday, prisoners across South Africa were set to embark on an indefinite “peaceful strike” to demand government to cut down the overcrowded population in order to protect them from coronavirus (Covid-19) infection.
Bhudu reportedly said his SAPOHR had used WhatsApp groups to mobilise thousands of prisoners to support his call for the release of “half” of the prison population.
The mobilisation for the release of prisoners followed reports of 79 Covid-19 positive cases in East London and Port Elizabeth prisons.
Later on Monday, correctional services said it was deeply concerned over mobilisation and propagation of chaos inside correctional centres.
“An action of this nature is unwarranted as [the department] has been regularly updating the nation on progress in terms of the implementation of our Covid-19 disaster management response strategy. Our approach is focused on prevention, containment/treatment and disaster recovery,” Nxumalo said.
“The department activated infection prevention control measures at all management areas with specific directives to ensure that personal protective equipment (PPE) is availed and has pushed for the sanitisation of reception areas, cells, offices, vehicles and ablution facilities.”
He said there had been screening at South African prisons and supplies were being provided continuously, both for inmates and officials.
“Reports purporting that inmates are not protected against the virus cannot be sustained. Since the suspension of visits to correctional centres on 16 March 2020, only one centre in East London, out of the country’s 243 correctional facilities, has confirmed Covid-19 cases for inmates.
[The department] acted promptly by activating containment and treatment measures where necessary, and enforcing prevention,” Nxumalo said.
Repeated efforts by African News Agency to reach Bhudu on Monday were not successful.
African News Agency (ANA)
By Jonisayi Maromo