Prisoners across the country should “rise to the occasion” despite the correctional services department sending in a team with the alleged “intention to kill” protesting inmates who are fighting for their basic human rights.
These were the words of Golden Miles Bhudu, a former inmate, activist and spokesperson for the South African Prisoners’ Organisation for Human Rights, who said inmates were ill-treated, and those detained for life were not granted parole.
On Sunday, prisoners at the Kgosi Mampuru II prison rioted and attacked warders after refusing to enter their cells.
The inmates were calling on parole for eligible “lifers” as well as better treatment by the department. One correctional services official and one inmate were injured.
Bhudu told The Citizen yesterday that the organisation had “run out of ideas” in getting the department’s attention, as changing the law for parole has made it more difficult for lifers to be eligible for release.
With the enactment of section 73 of the Correctional Services Act, 1998 (Act no 111 of 1998), in 2004, the minimum detention period now for lifers is 25 years.
Lifers would rather fight their own battle as the organisation has run out of ideas and patience with the department, he said.
“So we have left it up to them [prisoners] as this directly affects them. When offenders stand up for their rights they are met by the might of the law via the emergency support team, a response team by the department that suffocates any action whether it is peaceful or violent. They go there and break bones, crush skulls with the intention to kill. Inmates must rise to the occasion. What that means, only hell knows,” he said.
Despite claims of a strike across all prisons in the country, correctional services spokesperson Logan Maistry said the situation was calm but there were systematic delays in processing all parole applications, particularly for lifers.
“The department has acknowledged challenges in this regard and publicly communicated on this matter over the past weeks including a media briefing hosted by Minister Michael Masutha last Thursday.”
Masutha said that since assuming office in 2014, 1 124 parole applications by lifers had been brought before him, with only 291 being released.
He said this group of lifers had the lowest rate of noncompliance with parole conditions.
Maistry said the lack of reports from social workers and psychologists, as well as outstanding restorative justice interventions, were the main reasons the submission of profiles to the parole board was delayed.
“The department has embarked on a project to fill these vacancies … In certain circumstances, offenders are transferred to centres where such services by psychologists and social workers are available.”
He said the department was still developing a review of the parole system, which would be communicated to all stakeholders.