JOHANNESBURG – THE Thohoyandou Prison has degenerated into a ticking health time bomb with inmates drinking water from unsafe sources and contending with a lack of running water at ablution facilities.
In addition to the hazards that are exposing inmates to the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19), some suspects and their visiting relatives are at the mercy of corrupt correctional services officers that are allegedly swindling them of food and clothes meant for the inmates.
Investigations carried by CAJ News Africa revealed the mess at the Limpopo facility previously known as Matatshe Prison.
Dustbins supposed for used to collect refuse collections are used to store water for drinking by prisoners.
Toilets at times overflow with human waste exposing inmates to health hazards.
“My brother, please take this matter to either Minister Ronald Lamola (Justice minister) or President Cyril Ramaphosa,” said an inmate.
“Otherwise, all of us here will die of hunger and coronavirus due to lack of hygiene practices as well as being starved of food,” he added.
The inmate reported that some prisoners had serious health issues like kidney problems.
“Yet, they are being denied food and victimized for questioning why water is stored in dustbins,” he alleged.
CAJ News has been supplied with names of officers and warders accused of corruption through diverting to their personal use food and other items relatives bring for inmates.
“When we ask for our cash, we are refused food for days. He (named officer) tells us it is a favour to be given food in prison,” said one inmate.
“Warders here take inmates’ deliveries such as money meant for food before sharing them among themselves.”
Another inmate demanded that the prison be shut down until the water crisis was resolved.
“With COVID-19 lurking, we must always wash hands, but there is no water at all. Toilets have no running and flushing water. Inmates drink water supplied in dustbins where plates and hands are washed,” he said.
He added, “We are appeal to both Minister Lamola and President Ramaphosa to come and rescue us,” he added.
Minister Lamola and prison authorities could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.
Human rights lawyers said they would institute a probe into the alleged violations.
Prisons across South Africa have emerged a breeding ground for the spread of COVID-19.
More than 1 000 prisoners and warders have reportedly tested positive.
The scourge has led to protests in some prisons.
Government in May announced the release of some 19 000 inmates to decongest prisons but not much clarity has been provided on progress made.
– CAJ News