The Department of Justice and Correctional Services has refuted claims that management at the notorious Mangaung Private Prison in Bloemfontein is not adhering to COVID-19 protocols. This follows allegations that prison officials and inmates were kept in the dark about people who tested positive for coronavirus at the prison.

Angry inmates who demanded to be tested for coronavirus allegedly burned one of the cells. It is alleged that one inmate sustained burn wounds. The incidents come after inmates received information that other inmates tested positive for coronavirus.

President of the South African Prisoners’ Unemployed Social Movement Tokelo Afrika says management is sweeping matters under the carpet.

“We are tired of these matters. That is why you see inmates reacting this way; that is why they are now burning the cells and ganging up against the officers because they are tired. Nobody is willing to listen to them. There are so many incidents that happen in the Mangaung Prison.”

It is alleged that for the past six months warders and inmates have been stabbed in a surge of violent attacks at the correctional centre.

A warder was hospitalised after he was attacked by inmates in July.

There have been more than 5 400 COVID-19 infections in prisons countrywide since March:

Authorities called to intervene 

The South African Human Rights Commission says it will escalate this matter. Free State Human Rights Commission Manager, Thabang Kheswa has called on authorities to intervene.

“The South African Human Rights Commission has learnt with concern that there are incidents of violence that are taking place at Mangaung Private Prison and we call on those responsible, departments and state institutions to arrest the situation and really restore order at Mangaung Prison. It will really be worrying if acts of violence are continuing and nothing is done about that.”

Allegations dismissed 

Authorities have dismissed allegations of not adhering to COVID-19 regulations.

Correctional Services Spokesperson, Logan Mainstry, has confirmed that there are four COVID-19 confirmed cases.

“The number of active COVID-19 cases has decreased. The safety of correctional facilities is of paramount importance. On 30 July, three inmates set bedding and items alight in the cell. Circumstances are unknown but investigated. There is no incident of gang wars, but assaults take place.”

The South African Prisoners’ Unemployed Social Movement has reiterated its call for some prisoners to be released.