So. Africa: Court grants access to report on prison violence that may reveal torture of inmates by security company

Author: Estelle Ellis, Daily Maverick (South Africa) , Published on: 11 February 2020

‘Human rights lawyers win access to Mangaung prison riot report’ 11 February 2020

It took six years of missed deadlines and ignored letters before the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) finally won access to a report into violent riots at the Mangaung Prison in Bloemfontein, compiled by the Department of Correctional Services. The facility is one of two privately-run prisons in South Africa and houses 3,000 high-security prisoners.  While the company running the prison, G4S, opposed the application by CALS on the grounds that the report would contain confidential information it is not allowed to make public, Pretoria High Court Judge Pierre Rabie ruled that its counsel could not put up a single legal ground for the report to be exempted from the Promotion of Access to Information Act. 

It was reported that in October 2013 the Department of Correctional Services had to take over control of the prison from G4S following a spate of knife attacks and hostage situations when close to two-thirds of the staff were dismissed. It was reported that the takeover was necessitated because G4S had “lost control” of the facility.  CALS requested access to the report held by the Department of Correctional Services, after claims that prisoners incarcerated at Mangaung had been tortured by security personnel, attorney Sithuthukile Mkhize said. 

“We will still have a discussion about what action we will be taking after  receiving the report, but… it is highly likely that we will be taking some form of legal challenge against both the Department of Correctional Services and G4S,” she said.  “In late 2013, CALS became aware of a number of complaints made public by the Wits Justice Project that people incarcerated at the G4S-run Mangaung Correctional Centre had been tortured by the private security company’s personnel. Following these reports and a number of other serious incidents at Mangaung, the Department of Correctional Services took control of the prison and began an investigation. Within 10 months, the department had concluded its investigation and handed control back to G4S.” Since then CALS has been trying to get access to the results of this investigation. 

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Related companies: G4S