Tag Archives: South Africa

Demands grow for South Africa’s Zuma to go

Demonstrators carry banners as they take part in a protest calling for the removal of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma in Johannesburg, South Africa April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
April 15, 2017

It is fitting symbolism that one of the most intense of the many mass demonstrations in recent days, demanding the removal of South African President Jacob Zuma, was in the square in front of Cape Town’s City Hall.

Jacob Zuma at the 2009 World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, June 10, 2009. Photo by Matthew Jordaan, © World Economic Forum

It was in this same square on the evening of February 11, 1990, that tens of thousands of South Africans thronged to hear the first public speech by Nelson Mandela after his release from Victor Verster Prison earlier that day.

The mood that night as Mandela spoke from the steps of City Hall was full of wonder, optimism and promise. A few days before, the white minority government of President F. W. de Klerk had formally lifted the apartheid laws of racial segregation and opened the door to negotiations towards equality and democracy.

Twenty-seven years later – ironically, the same number of years Mandela spent in prison for battling apartheid – much of that promise is unfulfilled and the rest lies in the dust. Very many South Africans are convinced that they need look no further than their president, Jacob Zuma, to identify what has gone wrong. About 30,000 people turned out for the Cape Town demonstration a week ago and on Wednesday, April 12, Zuma’s 75th birthday, some 80,000 were at a similar protest outside the Union Buildings in the country’s administrative capital, Pretoria.

Zuma is accused of massive corruption and of gross incompetence as South Africa’s government leader and ultimate economic manager. South Africa’s natural and human resources, its infrastructure and industry, mean that it should be a stellar performer in Africa. But investors and credit rating agencies give it junk status as Zuma has chewed through finance ministers for reasons which allegedly have more to do with the interests of his cronies than of the country.

Unemployment among adults is just over 27 per cent and forecast to rise in the coming years. Among young people in the 15 to 24 age range unemployment is over 50 per cent, according to the World Bank.

To our supporters, thank you. Newcomers, welcome to reader-supported Facts and Opinions, employee-owned and ad-free. We will continue only if readers like you chip in, at least 27 cents, on an honour system. If you value our work, contribute below. Find details and more payment options here.

A recent Stellenbosch University study says that less than half South African school children pass their high school graduation exams.

Average life expectancy among South Africans is under 50 years, near the bottom of the World Health Organization’s rankings.

A feature of apartheid South Africa was that the white regime refused to admit that most of the country’s black people actually lived there. The infamous townships of home-made shacks without electricity or water were, in the eyes of the white regime, merely places where black workers camped during the week while they worked in white-owned industries. The workers’ real homes were, in this fantasy, their villages in the black bantustans. (Because of this ideological delusion, Soweto, with over 5 million people and Africa’s second largest city after Nigeria’s Lagos, didn’t really exist. It appeared on no maps and there were no road signs.)

Since the political settlement in 1994 the government has provided more than 2.5 million proper houses and another 1.2 million serviced sites. Yet over this period, the number of homes needed has increased from 1.5 million to 2.1 million. At the same time, the number of “informal settlements” – shanty towns – has gone up from 300 to 2,225, an increase of 650%.

Meanwhile Zuma and the new wealthy aristocracy of the ANC, its friends and relations, seem to get richer and richer. Various estimates now put Zuma’s personal wealth at over $US20 million, much of which is alleged to have been acquired through his association with the mega-rich Gupta family. The Guptas moved to South Africa from India in 1993 after the end of apartheid. The family’s various businesses have prospered mightily in what others have found a very challenging market.

The Guptas’ influence has grown to the extent that, through their links with Zuma, they are accused of “capturing the state.” There are claims among opposition politicians and even senior ANC figures that Zuma has allowed the Guptas to gain so much power that they can and do hand out ministerial positions in his government — including the Minister of Finance — to people who will guard their interests.

Zuma ousted the charisma-lite President Thabo Mbeki from the ANC leadership in 2007 and won the presidency in national elections in 2009. But even before he gained power, Zuma’s life heaved with scandal and controversy. Even as he fought the 2009 elections he was facing rape and corruption charges. He was acquitted of rape in a trial that tested the bounds of judicial impartiality, but he has found corruption allegations more difficult to leave in his wake. There were questions about a 1999 $US5 billion arms deal. The National Prosecuting Authority dropped the case just weeks before the 2009 election, but courts have now been asked to review the authority’s decision.

Then, when he won the highest office, there arose the question of the public money spent on his family compound in his village in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The improvements were ostensibly to boost the compound’s security, but were found to include a cattle enclosure, an amphitheatre, a swimming pool (a water reservoir in case of fire was Zuma’s explanation), a “visitor centre” (read guest cottage), and a chicken run. Last year South Africa’s Supreme Court ruled that Zuma had violated the constitution and ordered him to repay most of the government money used for the upgrade.

Zuma’s gathering storm of scandals has seen his public popularity drop to 40 per cent and he faces a vote of confidence in parliament soon. If more than 50 of the 249 member of the ANC parliamentary caucus join with opposition parties to turn thumbs down on his presidency, Zuma will face removal from office well ahead of 2019, when his current term in office ends.

The vote was scheduled to be held on Tuesday, April 18, but the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has appealed to the Constitutional Court to require a secret ballot. It is unclear at this point when the court may make a ruling. The DA figures, apparently with good reason, that with a secret ballot the necessary 50 plus ANC members will vote against Zuma.

What the effect would be of a vote in parliament of no confidence in Zuma is uncertain. He is due to be replaced as ANC leader in December, after serving the two terms allowed, and would continue as South Africa’s president until the next elections in 2019.

However, there are several reports that many senior figures in the ANC are concerned that Zuma is tainting the party’s reputation and prospects. This is at a time when the aura of being the party of Nelson Mandela and “liberation” from apartheid doesn’t carry the magic or draw the instinctive loyalty from voters that it did a generation ago.

Demonstrators take part in a protest calling for the removal of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, in Pretoria, South Africa April 7, 2017. REUTERS/James Oatway

The battle against apartheid created a unity and discipline that obscured the profound cultural, ethnic, regional and political differences among South Africans. Nearly three decades after the end of apartheid and faced with an evidently corrupt and dysfunctional President, these differences are coming to the fore.

These sometimes jarring differences are no more evident than in the groups and visions arrayed for and against Zuma.

Zuma’s supporters are predominantly rural people who follow a traditional village lifestyle. They have little interest in or appreciation for their urban brethren’s fixations on housing, education and the country’s advancement as a technological and economic hub of Africa. In South Africa’s villages Zuma’s display as a traditional chieftain is a political bonus, as is his personal life. Many urban South Africans find distasteful Zuma’s enthusiastic and proud polygamy. He has four wives at the moment and did have two others. One divorced him and the other committed suicide. Zuma has also paid the lobola — bride price — to become engaged to at least one other woman. He has had several other mistresses, including the sister of the first judge at his rape trial, who had to recuse himself because of the relationship. Zuma has at least 20 children from his various liaisons and in his first year as president the amount of government money he received for “spousal support” amounted to the equivalent of $3 million.

The main opposition to Zuma in the political area is the Democratic Alliance, which has 99 seats in parliament. This party has its roots in the Progressive Party, founded in 1959 by white South Africans who objected to apartheid. The party, however, was always envisaged as a non-racial grouping and is now led by Mmusi Mainmane. The DA’s main strength is in Western Cape province, where the ANC has never been the dominant opposition party, even during apartheid.

In the last couple of weeks three ANC members have resigned from parliament in protest against Zuma’s leadership. If the ANC fractures further, both in parliament and out among its grass roots supporters, the Democratic Alliance will likely be the largest beneficiary.

But not everywhere or among all classes of South Africans. Prominent organizers and participants in the recent wave of demonstrations against Zuma have been the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by expelled ANC youth leader Julius Malema.

Malema was expelled from the ANC in 2012 after being convicted of using “hate speech.” It was his custom at ANC Youth rallies to sing an old “liberation” song “Dubula iBuni” (Shoot the Boer). His antipathy towards white Afrikaans farmers – Boers – has continued. Malema advocates the expropriation of white-owned farmland without compensation, very much like the campaign Robert Mugabe launched in neighbouring Zimbabwe in 2000, and which has led to the near-complete economic and social destruction of the country. Malema also argues for the nationalization of all mines in South Africa, a position shared by the very large National Union of Mineworkers, but rejected by the ANC government. Mining generates 60 per cent of South Africa’s exports.

The EFF has 25 seats in parliament. And Malema is the kind of populist who can take advantage of the disenchantment generated by the ANC’s limited record of success in dealing with the country’s grinding social and economic problems.

Outside the political parties, several civil society groups have called on Zuma to resign, including some veterans organizations and the South African Council of Churches.

Nelson Mandela speaks to reporters, including Jonathan Manthorpe (top), in the garden of his old house in Soweto two days after his release from Victor Verster prison on Feb. 11, 1990.

Nelson Mandela speaks to reporters, including Jonathan Manthorpe (top), in the garden of his old house in Soweto two days after his release from Victor Verster prison on Feb. 11, 1990.

There is also major opposition to Zuma from within the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions. COSATU was a crucial body in the anti-apartheid movement in the 1970s and 1980s. The largest member of COSATU – the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union – has publicly called on Zuma to resign. Other affiliates are expected to follow that lead, and if the removal of Zuma becomes official COSATU policy it would be a deadly blow to his presidency.

When COSATU was formed in 1985, its first general secretary was the mine workers’ union organizer, Cyril Ramaphosa. In 1991 Ramaphosa made a significant career shift when he took on the post of general secretary of the ANC and became a key figure in the negotiations with the de Klerk government of a post-apartheid constitution. Many politically centrist South Africans of all skin colours hoped at the time that Ramaphosa was on his way to ANC leadership, and thus the country’s presidency. But it was not to be. At the time the ANC was convulsed by triumphalism, and honouring the dedication and sacrifices of its own senior members, as well as bowing to the party’s internal factions. Thus the “internal” leader Mandela was followed by the representatives of the “external” ANC exiles Thabo Mbeki. Mandela was a Xhosa of the East Cape region. Mbeki is also Xhosa from the Western Cape, but Zuma is a Zulu, South Africa’s largest ethnic group and perhaps its most culturally traditional.

Ramaphosa was born and brought up in Soweto, where his father was a policeman, and thus does not carry the same kind of ethnic identity as other ANC leaders. Ramaphosa became a member of parliament in the 1994 elections, but left politics in 1997 when he was bested by Mbeki for the ANC leadership. He went into business and has become one of South Africa’s richest men, with personal wealth of more than $US600 million, according to “Forbes” magazine. Among Ramaphosa’s holdings is a 20-year franchise on McDonald’s 145 fast-food outlets in the country.

In 2012 Ramaphosa again became active in the ANC as the party’s deputy president and in May, 2014, Zuma appointed him South Africa’s Deputy President and Chairman of the National Planning Commission. Ramaphosa is thus poised to make good on the prize that eluded him in 1997 and succeed Zuma as ANC leader and South Africa’s president.

But Ramaphosa is not a shoo in. His main opponent at the moment is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the departing chairwoman of the African Union, which is the association of all 54 countries of the continent. As well as her record in this demanding post, she has been South Africa’s Minister of Health, Foreign Minister, and Minister of Home Affairs.

She is also one of Jacob Zuma’s ex-wives and all the indications are he favours her to succeed him as ANC leader in December, which could put her on the path to the national presidency. The speculation is that he will give her a cabinet post when she gets back from the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2017

Contact Jonathan Manthorpe, including for queries about syndication/republishing: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

~~~

 

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

~~~

~~~

Thank you to our supporters. To newcomers, please know that reader-supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free, and will continue only if readers like you chip in. Please, if you value our work, contribute a suggested minimum of $1 per day site pass via PayPal.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Also tagged , |

South African politics see tectonic shift

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
August 6, 2016

South African voters have delivered the most stinging rebuke to the party of Nelson Mandela since it led the country out of apartheid a quarter century ago.

The messianic reputation of the African National Congress (ANC) as the party that for decades battled institutionalised racial segregation and then led the country to democracy in the early 1990s is crumbling under the weight of administrative incompetence and endless corruption scandals.

Nelson Mandela speaks to reporters, including Jonathan Manthorpe (top), in the garden of his old house in Soweto two days after his release from Victor Verster prison on Feb. 11, 1990.

Nelson Mandela speaks to reporters, including Jonathan Manthorpe (top), in the garden of his old house in Soweto two days after his release from Victor Verster prison on Feb. 11, 1990.

The extent of the slide was evident in municipal elections this week when the ANC lost control of the country’s administrative capital, Pretoria, and the south coast industrial city of Port Elizabeth to the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA). With about 98 per cent of the votes counted the parties both had 42 per cent support in the country’s economic heartland and most populous city, Johannesburg. In Cape Town the DA’s share of the vote rose to 67 per cent from the 61 per cent it won in 2011.

Nationwide, support for the ANC slipped to 54 per cent from 62 per cent in the last municipal elections.

The rise of the DA under its new, first black leader, 34-year-old evangelical pastor Mmusi Maimane, is dramatic and is a warning to the ANC for the upcoming national elections in 2019. South African President and ANC leader Jacob Zuma is deeply unpopular after a spate of corruption scandals and economic mismanagement that has seen unemployment stuck at around 25 per cent.

Zuma unnerved investors in December when he changed finance ministers twice in one week. The value of the currency, the rand, dropped like a stone. The President has survived several other scandals that would have toppled less determined – or thick-skinned – politicians. In 2005, while a minister in the ANC government with responsibility for confronting the HIV-AIDs epidemic, Zuma was charged with rape. The judge eventually decided the sex was consensual. But Zuma’s confession in court that he did not use a condom even though he knew his partner was HIV positive brought public scorn and derision.

Zuma went on to win the ANC leadership and the Presidency. However, he was then charged with abuse of power for using the equivalent of about $20 million in public money to renovate and expand his family home and compound in KwaZulu-Natal. He survived an impeachment vote in April after ignoring a Constitutional Court order to repay some of the money. He now says he will give some of the money back.

Zuma cannot run again after his second term is up, but his leadership of the ANC must be reviewed next year, and it is possible the party will replace him with a more appealing figure in an effort to stall the evident momentum of Maimane and the DA.

That will not be easy. This week’s municipal elections show a growing divide between the towns and cities, where the DA is on the march, and the rural areas where the ANC still commands voter loyalty.

The temptation for ANC strategists will be to shore up their support in rural areas with patronage outlays and exploiting the authority of local chieftains and community leaders. This may arrest or slow the party’s slide, but it will reinforce the ANC’s image as the party of hidebound yesterday’s men clinging to office.

Of the country’s 54 million people, 60 per cent are under 30 years old and have no direct memory of apartheid or the struggle that went into its defeat. What young South Africans know of the ANC is a party that has fallen far short of its promises to provide housing, jobs and social services. Meanwhile the ANC leaders live the lives of princes and their relatives and cronies have benefited from “black empowerment” policies.

One of the encouraging results in this week’s municipal votes is the failure of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by ANC renegade and anti-white racist Julius Malema. The EFF had never contested municipal elections before, and despite its high profile nationwide, it won only single-digit support in most of the contests. This suggests that Malema, who has been found guilty of “hate speech” for his incitement of his followers to kill whites, is more of a media darling than a serious political player. However, in towns and cities where neither the ANC nor the DA has a majority, Malema and the EFF may find themselves kingmakers with a valuable commodity to barter away.

The poor showing of the EFF gives added shine to the success of Maimane and the DA.

The DA has its roots in opposition to apartheid by liberal whites in the 1950s, when they founded the Progressive Party. It was the party of white anti-segregation activists such as Helen Suzman, Frederik van Syl Slabbert and Harry Swartz. In 1989 the name was changed to the Democratic Party, and in 2000 changed again to the Democratic Alliance when it merged with two smaller parties.

The DA and its forerunners have always been successful in South Africa’s Western, Northern and Southern Cape regions, where “coloured” people predominate and there is a relatively small population of black Africans, who are the backbone of ANC support.

The DA won control of Western Cape, one of South Africa’s nine provinces, in the 2009 general election and increased its majority in 2014.

Much of the successful growth of the DA is credited to Helen Zille, who served as both national party leader and Premier of Western Cape until she resigned the national leadership in April – two years earlier than expected — and was replaced by Maimane.

Maimane’s leadership has already done much to scotch the prejudice that the DA is the party of liberal whites. In the past, the DA got only about six per cent of its support from black voters. He has the added advantage of coming from the industrial heartland around Johannesburg, the old Transvaal province now known as Gauteng. It is here and in neighbouring KwaZulu-Natal that the DC must break through if it is to become a credible alternative government to the ANC on the national stage.

Maimane ran for mayor of Johannesburg in 2009 and for premier of Gauteng in 2014. He was defeated in both contests, but gained a national profile and joined the DA parliamentary caucus last year.

Despite its legitimate claim to being the founding political organisation of modern South Africa, the ANC is clearly vulnerable. As well as its failure to deliver the promised betterment in people’s daily lives and the stench of corruption that hangs around its leaders, the party has fallen out with some of the country’s very important trade unions. The ANC’s alliance with the unions was an essential part of the organised opposition to the National Party apartheid regime. The crumbling of that alliance is a sign of the changing political landscape since the first non-racial, democratic elections in 1994.

Widening voter support for the DA comes from the party’s ability to point to its largely corruption-free and successful administration of the Western Cape, Cape Town, and most of the smaller urban centres within the province. But the party is likely to go through some wrenching policy contortions if it is to mount a credible alternative to the ANC government.

At the DA’s May convention that elected Maimane leader, it also adopted a “Values Charter,” that is intended to be a national election manifesto. This document is full of fine platitudes and is strong on family values, which appears to reflect Maimane’s position as an evangelical Christian. But it is at odds with traditional, non-denominational DA liberal values, and it may therefore be difficult for Maimane to carry the party’s veterans with him.

Even so, South African politics have breasted a watershed moment of change with the results of this week’s municipal elections. For the ANC, the right to rule under the Mandela aura is over and South African politics are becoming a real contest over real issues of people’s wellbeing.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

 

~~~

 

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

~~~

Real journalism is not free. If you value evidence-based, non-partisan, spam-free information, please support Facts and Opinions, an employee-owned collaboration of professional journalists.  Details here.

 

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Also tagged , |

Filth, disease, sex and violence for South African female inmates

By Ruth Hopkins
March, 2016

© Palesa 2016

© Palesa 2016

International Women’s Day on March 8 turns the spotlight on the fate of women, in particular their achievements and the slow pace of progress. An often overlooked group are women prisoners. Their needs, views and struggles barely figure in feminist discourse, let alone in the mainstream debate in society.

Pollsmoor Prison in the Western Cape of South Africa is known for its extreme overcrowding – 300% above its capacity – which feeds into gang violence and poor sanitary conditions. Life-threatening diseases, such as tuberculosis, flourish in the poorly ventilated and overcrowded cells.

About 740 of the 8 465 inmates are women. Nationally, 3 029 women – or about 2.3% of the entire inmate population – are imprisoned, according to the 2015 annual report of the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services.

Female wardens show visitors to the meeting room at the unsentenced section and ask them to leave their possessions behind a desk.

Palesa*, a dreadlocked woman in her mid-30s with big, intense eyes, waits for me on the other side of the glass partition. We both lean in to hear each other speak, through a faulty intercom.

“See this?” she asks, raising her index finger to a scar above her eyebrows. “I was put in a cell with an inmate who was known to be violent. She bit me and here, on my elbow.”

Palesa asked repeatedly for an HIV test following the assault, but she says she was never given one and was also not informed about her attacker’s HIV status.

Palesa has waited nearly three years for her trial to be completed. She was arrested in 2013 after fatally stabbing her boyfriend, who she says was trying to strangle her. Palesa says his death released her from an abusive relationship that saw her quit her job because she was locked inside her flat most days.

After her arrival at Pollsmoor, Palesa started writing a blog and drawing cartoons about prison life, but has been unable to publish them – until now.

“Hi all, this blog started as a way for me to give you out there a run-down of prison life. There are many injustices taking place at the department of correctional services and your hard-earned tax money is paying for them. An important role this blog can serve … is making the prison transparent to the public.”

© Palesa 2016

© Palesa 2016

The title of another blog entry reads: “Pollsmoor female unsentenced section is controlled by mafia-style ‘kitchen ladies’?”. It goes on to say: “Two things can buy you anything in this prison, and they control both: food and tobacco.”

The kitchen ladies, nicknamed “adjutants”, are female inmates tasked with running the prison kitchen. “They are correctional officers without keys who use the food in the kitchen to ‘buy’ whatever they want. The prison is their playground; they do as they please,” Palesa alleges.

Another way to survive, according to Palesa, is to find a “prison mother”. “In Pollsmoor you need a ‘tronk ma’, a female warder who ‘adopts’ you in exchange for deposits into their Shoprite accounts. These prison mothers then bring you food, medication and anything you need. But I refuse. These [correctional services] officials get a salary; why should I pay them?”

The tronk mas, Palesa says, don’t just demand money for favours: sometimes it becomes sexual when wardens initiate slanga, prison slang for a same-sex relationship.

© Palesa 2016

© Palesa 2016

Simone*, who was incarcerated in Pollsmoor in 2007 and 2008, chose to play slangawith a fellow inmate to survive. “It was beneficial because she gave me what I wanted.”

Simone says she struck up a relationship with the woman mainly as protection against the rampant violence in the women’s section. “There were many fights, mostly caused by jealousy over food, toiletries, tobacco. I got hit on the soles of my feet by wardens and I was bitten by another inmate.”

Melanie*, another former inmate who was imprisoned in 2010, recalls a practice called “toppers”: wardens would punish inmates by hitting the tops of their fingers with a broomstick.

Most of the female inmates interviewed in Hard Times, a 2012 research report on women prisoners in Pollsmoor produced by the University of Cape Town’s gender, health and justice unit, had experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse growing up.

Basing their findings on interviews with 53 inmates, the authors note that “the correctional system becomes an extension of the abusive domestic context, where the features of domestic violence are recreated through prison controls and other behaviours … replicating a de facto domestic violence relationship”.

Dirty cells and substandard sanitation, especially in the awaiting-trial section, also traumatise the women. “Toilets and showers were incredibly dirty, always blocked,” Melanie remembers.

‘Filthy and cramped’
Grace Nienaber is a slender, middle-aged woman dressed in the prison’s bright yellow remand uniform. She was convicted for fraud after awaiting trial for two and a half years, and was released several weeks ago after receiving a suspended sentence. “It’s filthy here,” she says. “And cramped. They have squeezed about 70 women into a cell that is meant for 30. People sleep on the floor, toilets don’t flush and forget about warm water.”

Poor sanitation and overcrowding has provided the perfect hotbed for the spread of communicable diseases in Pollsmoor, especially tuberculosis.

The Constitutional Court condemned conditions at the prison in 2012 when it ruled in favour of former inmate Dudley Lee, who had sued the government after becoming infected with tuberculosis in jail. The highest court in the land gave the correctional services department a slap on the wrist for not complying with a raft of domestic and international legislation, including standing orders on cell space, ventilation and access to medication.

Three years after that ruling, Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron wrote a scathing report on the remand sections – male and female – following a visit in April last year. “Ninety-four women were crowded into a poorly aerated room. The mattresses were stinking. There was no working toilet, a clogged sink drain and only cold water … Sheets and blankets were infested with lice … [and] the cell was infested with cockroaches.”

He also signalled there was little to no access to medical staff and poorly ventilated and heavily overcrowded cells – an indication the department has not done much to uphold the Dudley Lee ruling.

Lawyers for Human Rights and Sonke Gender Justice are suing the department for what they say are subhuman conditions in the male remand section.

The high court in Cape Town recently opened the way for former Pollsmoor inmate Nassiera James to sue the department after she contracted tuberculosis in 2009. Legal damages claims usually lapse after three years, but the court ruled that James could not have reasonably known she had a claim because most inmates are unaware of their rights. Attorney Jonathan Cohen, who represented (the since deceased) Lee, is also James’s lawyer.

James, who was released from prison in December 2009, lives in a house with a small fenced-off yard on a crescent in Mitchells Plain. She meets me in her uniform and head scarf, her work outfit.

“The officials at Pollsmoor do not try to find out who has TB and who doesn’t. While I was inside, a woman died of TB. Shortly thereafter, I started feeling really ill and I was coughing blood. The prison hospital kept saying that my sputum tests all came back with a negative result.”

After an outside hospital finally diagnosed her with the pulmonary illness, she returned to Pollsmoor and was put back in a communal cell despite still being potentially infectious to fellow inmates.

“This means they do this to other inmates; keep them in a communal cell while they await their test results. They throw people together like a bunch of dogs.”

When James hears a child call out her name, she goes to the crossroads outside her house. A six-year-old boy runs towards her. “This one was born in Pollsmoor,” she says as she strokes his head. “My family took him home after seven days. Pregnant women are taken care of,” she adds.

Mothers and babies
Lerato*, an official working in the women’s section, agrees. “Several years ago, things improved when the department started a separate mother and baby unit and a crèche for women whose babies are born in prison. The children are allowed to stay for two years.”

Children who were born before their mothers were incarcerated often end up in a precarious situation. “One mother had a three-month-old baby at home and she complained that there wasn’t anyone taking care of it,” says Lerato. “I asked the social worker to look into it, but she said there was nothing she could do.”

The women interviewed for the Hard Times report describe being separated from their children as the most difficult aspect of prison life.

“It’s hard being without my kids … that’s why I would like to appeal, even if it’s only … for a less[er] sentence,” an inmate called Tokkie told the researchers through her tears.

Correctional services policy is brief on the issue of women inmates and their children. The White Paper on Corrections in South Africa only stipulates that women should be incarcerated close to their homes.

The shortage of medical staff in the prison also leads to dangerous situations, says Lerato. “We have one psychologist, one doctor and one dentist for the entire prison. Some HIV-positive women are not getting their [antiretrovirals] and inmates who I suspect have TB are not being seen to.”

Melissa*, a mother of two, says she was framed by a former boyfriend who was angry about the fact that she was leaving him. “I was at the airport with my son when custom officials called me. They found 10 kilo-grams of marijuana in my suitcase,” she recalls. Melissa was arrested and after a few days in police custody, she was brought to the awaiting-trial section of the women’s jail.

“It was sad: there were so many women there who couldn’t afford R200 bail. Some of them had only stolen bread. I was lucky; my parents paid for an expensive attorney and advocate, who found out my ex-boyfriend had phoned the airport and had provided customs officials with a detailed description of me. I was released immediately.”

Melissa also noticed the poor medical attention in the prison. “The smell in the place was unbelievable. There was a woman in there who was pregnant and emitting a horrible smell, of rotting flesh. They washed her, but the smell didn’t

go. We asked the wardens to call a doctor, because we suspected her baby had died, but no one came.

I don’t know what happened to that poor woman; I was afraid she might die.”

Melissa stayed in Pollsmoor for only a few days, but she says it affected her deeply. “It was the most traumatic experience of my life. I don’t know what I would have done if my parents hadn’t paid for the lawyers. I can’t bear to think of what it is like to be imprisoned there for longer.”

Nienaber does know what that is like. Shortly after she was brought to Pollsmoor, she found out she had skin cancer. “I did not receive any treatment here. At one point, I had open wounds on my body and I had to be admitted to Groote Schuur Hospital with septic shock. I nearly died.”

The department of correctional services declined to comment on the women’s allegations, despite repeated requests to do so.

* The women asked not to be named for fear of reprisals or because they feared they would lose their jobs.

Copyright Ruth Hopkins 2016

Ruth Hopkins works as an investigative journalist for the Wits Justice Project, where this article first appeared.

You might also be interested in:

South African prison inmate ‘tortured to death’. By Ruth Hopkins

Several inmates incarcerated in South Africa’s Mangaung prison have died under suspicious circumstances. Documents that were recently provided to the WJP and eyewitness accounts contain shocking allegations that inmates were tortured before they died, while the prison registered their deaths as either “natural” or “suicide”. More worryingly, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is aware that G4S’ recordkeeping of deaths in custody is not up to standard and that deaths through torture may go undetected. Despite that knowledge, it has not held G4S accountable.

Oscar Pistorius and South Africa’s VIP Justice. By Ruth Hopkins

399px-Oscar_Pistorius_2_Daegu_2011Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial in South Africa, dubbed the trial of the century, has hogged the limelight since he was arrested and charged for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year. The “OP” case however, is hardly representative of South Africa’s criminal justice system — but rather exposes the ugly face of class justice. The trial has revealed a level of quality of the legal process that the criminal justice system is capable of producing, but ordinary South African citizens are by no means guaranteed a fair trial.

Private prison operator accused of using drugs and electric shocks. By Ruth Hopkins

 A South African prison, run by the beleaguered multinational private security company G4S, allegedly forcibly injected inmates with antipsychotic medication and used electroshocks to subdue and control them. Prisoners, warders and health care workers said that involuntary medication was regularly practised at the Mangaung Correctional Centre near Bloemfontein. The company, G4S, denies any acts of assault or torture. The allegations are according to at least 35 sources – prisoners as well as security guards, prison and health officials – and based on medical records seen by reliable sources, legal documents and video footage shot inside the prison.

What has gone so horribly wrong with South Africa’s police? By Ruth Hopkins

F&O Hopkins

© Ruth Hopkins 2013

Steven Mothao was walking back home from a piece job on August 10, 2010, through Fordsburg in Joburg. Out of nowhere, three police officers appeared and pushed him against a wall. While onlookers gawked, the police officers slammed Mothao into a police van. He was detained in a police cell for 22 hours. For the first 14, he wasn’t offered a glass of water. Then Mothao was out on the street again. The police officers never identified themselves, they did not have an arrest warrant, and they did not inform Mothao of the reasons for his arrest. He sued the Minister of Police for damages and was awarded R150 000 in March.

~~~

RuthHopkins-FAOFacts and Opinions contributor Ruth Hopkins is a senior journalist with the Wits Justice Project in Johannesburg, South Africa. She wrote a book on trafficking in women in/to Europe, which was published in 2005 (Ik laat je nooit meer gaan, I will never let you go again), based on five years of research in Albania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and the Netherlands.

In addition to her journalistic work, Ruth set up and taught a human rights course at a journalism college in the Netherlands. Ruth was named print Legal Journalist of the Year by Webber Wentzel 2011 – 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and relies on the honour system: enjoy one free story. If you value independent, no-spam, no-ads,expert journalism, support us with a minimum of .27 per story, a $1 day site pass, or $20 per year. Donate below. Please respect our copyright. Details here.

~~~

Real journalism is not free. If you value evidence-based, non-partisan, advertising and spam free information, support Facts and Opinions, an employee-owned collaboration of professional journalists. We need at least .27 per story — and appreciate all sustaining contributions. Thanks for your interest.  Details here.

 

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

 

Posted in Also tagged , |

South African prison inmate ‘tortured to death’

11923316_10207731132143271_2565771623741374159_o

Several inmates incarcerated in Mangaung prison have died under suspicious circumstances.

By Ruth Hopkins, Wits Justice Project 
September, 2015 

On a cold winter day in 2005, inmate Isaac Nelani asked wardens at South Africa’s Mangaung prison, run by British security firm G4S, for an extra blanket to keep him warm. The prison walls emitted a chill that crept into his joints and bones. Nelani, a 47-year old inmate at Mangaung prison, was HIV-positive, which made him more susceptible to the cold.

Other than his insistence on an extra blanket that day, not much else is known about Nelani. Inmates who spoke to the Wits Justice Project (WJP), say he was a gentle guy, others claim he was emotionally unstable. Why he had been placed in a cell in Mangaung’s notorious “Broadway” isolation section remains unknown. Nelani himself is no longer around to connect the dots, because he died under suspicious circumstances on that cold day, May 18 2005. G4S officials registered the death as suicide in their internal records, which the WJP has in its possession. 

Several inmates incarcerated in Mangaung prison have died under suspicious circumstances. Documents that were recently provided to the WJP and eyewitness accounts contain shocking allegations that inmates were tortured before they died, while the prison registered their deaths as either “natural” or “suicide”. More worryingly, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is aware that G4S’ recordkeeping of deaths in custody is not up to standard and that deaths through torture may go undetected. Despite that knowledge, it has not held G4S accountable. DCS has instituted a task team to look into unnatural deaths in the prison, but the investigations have yet to be finalised. 

Recently, Nelani’s death was part of a DCS investigation into allegations of abuse at the Bloemfontein prison. The investigation was initiated two years ago, after the WJP revealed the results of a year-long probe into the prison. It uncovered a practice, since the inception of the prison in 2000, of alleged routine assaults, electroshocking, alleged forced injections with anti-psychotic drugs and lengthy isolation of inmates in the prison. The allegations were based on interviews with approximately 70 inmates and dozens of wardens, governmental reports and audio and video footage of the forced injections and the electroshocking. It revealed a hellhole of a prison.

11923284_10207731132743286_8663584614131960688_o

An investigation was initiated in 2013, after the WJP revealed the results of a year-long probe into the prison. It uncovered practices since 2000 of alleged routine assaults, electroshocking, alleged forced injections with anti-psychotic drugs and lengthy isolation of inmates in the prison. The photos with this story were captured in 2012 from a video obtained by the Wits Justice Project,

Then minister of correctional services, Sbu Ndebele, promised to “leave no stone unturned”. The 30 days he allocated for the report to be finalised have long expired; nearly two years after the expose, DCS has still not finalised or published the results of its investigation.

The DCS took over Mangaung prison in October 2013, when G4S lost control of the prison, amid a spate of stabbings and hostage-takings, which followed on the heels of a protracted strike and subsequent dismissal of 330 employees: about two-thirds of the entire work force. A year ago, the department handed back the prison to G4S.

The WJP has seen the part of the draft DCS report that refers to Nelani’s death. “In respect of death (sic.) of Isaac Nelani, a discrepancy exists between MCC [Mangaung Correctional Centre – ed.] and pathologist records, MCC records the death as a suicide, whilst pathologist records it as a head wound.” DCS, however, denies such a report existed. “DCS is not aware of any reference to a head wound with regard to Isaac Nelani.”

In 2010, a magistrate’s inquest into Isaac Nelani’s death revealed further worrying findings. It starts with the witness statements of the warders on duty that day. Sello Johannes Moleleke, the supervisor, stated that on May 18 2005 around 5pm, he checked up on all inmates in Broadway, by looking through the feeding hole. When he came to Nelani’s cell door, he saw that he was sitting next to the door “with a piece of clothing around his neck”. Moleleke’s colleague Vuyo David then called the prison hospital and two nurses were dispatched. When they arrived at the scene, they tried to resuscitate Nelani, but to no avail. He was pronounced dead. 

And this is where the plot thickens. South African Police (SAPS) arrived at the scene and they took pictures of Nelani’s corpse, his cell and of the unit Broadway. Then the body was transferred to the morgue. The next day, pathologist Robert Gene Book performed an autopsy on Nelani, as is required by law if a death is considered unnatural.

Brook qualifies the manner of death as “undetermined, but suspicious”. He does not mention a head wound, but does determine the inmate’s cause of death was “consistent with either hanging by the neck or strangulation”. What raised the pathologist’s suspicion was the bruising on Nelani’s heart. Bruising of the heart happens when there is huge impact, like a severe assault, a car accident, a fall to the ground from a great height, or when cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) takes place. A nurse did perform CPR on Nelani, but the location of the bruising on the heart apparently suggests it was not caused by the resuscitation attempt. “(..) the distribution of the said bruising (…) only on the posterior of the heart, adjacent the spine, lead me to suspect that blunt force had been applied to the heart”. 

In concluding the report, Brooks writes that none of the pieces of clothing that Nelani allegedly hanged himself by, were presented to him. The police had told him the inmate had hanged himself by a leather jacket, which he found to be completely inconsistent with the ligature marks on Nelani’s neck, with a piece of clothing that is not permitted in prison. “In civilized countries throughout the world, the Forensic Pathologist is called to scenes of death in custody; it never happens here in Bloemfontein. Never.” Brooks writes. 

So what did happen on May 18 2005 in Broadway? Four eyewitnesses told the WJP a chilling tale of a cover up.

Inmate Papi Maruping was locked up in a cell on the upper level of Broadway, facing the cell where the warders brought Nelani, a cell commonly referred to as the “dark room”. He and two other inmates say that the flap on the feeding hatches in the cell door was kept open, so they could see out through a slit. “Nelani was complaining about the cold and had demanded an extra blanket. He was given one, but when Maluleke came on duty, he took it from him. Nelani protested loudly and Maluleke called the EST (Emergency Security Team, also known as the Ninjas).” According to Maruping, six EST members, armed with electrically charged shields, came to the unit around one o’clock in the afternoon. “They took him out of his cell and twisted his arms behind his back. Nelani complained and asked them: ‘is this how you operate?’. They ordered him to strip and to take a cold shower, then he had to get dressed again and then they took him to the dark room.” 

The dark room was a windowless cell with thick walls that ensured it was a sound proof space. This is where an EST member, interviewed by BBC television on October 28 2013, admitted to bringing inmates to torture them. “Yeah we stripped them naked and we throw with water so the electricity can work nicely. I will shock him until he tells the truth that I want even if it’s a lie,” the Ninja said before camera. Around the same time, a further 13 dismissed EST members confirmed to the WJP that the dark room was used for this purpose.

“When they tried to take him to the dark room, he resisted. The EST guys surrounded him outside the cell, cuffed him and started to shock him with their shields. They kicked him too. Nelani was bleeding from the mouth and screaming, we could all hear him.” According to Maruping, Nelani was lying face down on the floor of the cell when he saw a doctor enter. “A doctor went into the cell and injected Nelani in his neck. Then they closed the cell door.”

Mxolisi Ndaba was also positioned on the upper floor of the isolation unit and followed what happened in Broadway, through the slit of the opened feeding hatch. “I heard Nelani scream, as the ninjas electroshocked him,” he recounts. “Then they dragged him into the dark room and the door closed. We all thought he was attacked in there.”

Ouba Mabalane was in the cell next to Ndaba. “They tortured him to death. I could hear him screaming. After he died, EST members hung up clothes to make it look like he committed suicide.”

An inmate tasked with cleaning the cells found Nelani dead when he served dinner around 5pm. Strangely, his statement was not included in the magistrate’s inquest and none of the warders who did issue statements mention him. That inmate has since been released on parole and he met with the WJP last year. He indicated that he wanted to remain anonymous, for fear of his parole being revoked. According to him, officials from G4S instructed him to state that Nelani died as a result of suicide, whereas he claims to have written to the DCS controller (a governmental official working at the prison who is supposed to oversee legal compliance of the company) that Nelani died as a result of a beating.

Maruping witnessed what might be the most chilling part of this tragic tale. “He opened the door to the cell and started shaking Nelani. Nelani was lying face down, with his hands cuffed behind his back. The inmate notified Maluleke who then made a phone call. Not much later, several officials entered the section. They went into the interview room in the corner of Broadway. When they came out, one of them was wearing rubber gloves and three men entered the cell and when they came out, I could see Nelani hanging from the door. His handcuffs had been removed.”

Inmate Tebogo Bereng also left Mangaung prison in a body bag, allegedly following an altercation about a blanket. On March 31 2013, Bereng, whose cell was in the Port Phillip unit, died in an isolation cell in the Wolds unit. His cellmate at the time, Lawrence Sehhonka, wrote to the WJP that Bereng had wanted to change his “inner duvet”, but the supervisor had refused. A verbal altercation broke out and the EST was called. “Supervisor called the EST to come and collect Tebogo Bereng to Broadway. Tebogo was shocked by the ninjas at that time.” Sehonka wrote.

Inmate Hlello Mbatyazwa saw Bereng arrive at the prison hospital. “Four or five Ninjas electroshocked him in the corridor at the entrance of the hospital, where there are no cameras. They put their shields to his head. Tebogo was handcuffed and he was screaming and trying to protect himself.”

Another inmate, Vusimuzi Nkonyana, saw Bereng leaving the hospital: “I saw him coming from the hospital as they were taking him to segregation. It looked like he was fitting.”

Bereng was an epilepsy patient, he wrote to the WJP in 2014 complaining about expired medication he was given for his epilepsy.

The ninjas escorted Bereng to an isolation cell in the Wolds unit. Some hours later, warders found Bereng lifeless in his cell and he was brought back to the hospital where a doctor declared him dead at 13:52. The doctor writes “post mortem requested” at the bottom of the medical form that was submitted to Chantelle Liebenberg, a pathologist at the state mortuary in Bloemfontein. Liebenberg however, only performed an external exam—a post mortem includes an internal exam—on April 2 and determined that the cause of death was natural, based on her examination and information given to her by the prison. She writes: “according to the inmate who shared a room with him, he started not feeling well and collapsed”. His cellmate, however, wrote to the WJP stating that he saw Bereng having a conflict with the warders and he saw the EST escort—a then still healthy—Bereng out of the unit.

The worrying inconsistencies do not stop here. Bereng’s brother Bassie recalls: “G4S phoned us and told us that Tebogo had died in his cell.” Bereng’s younger brother Robert: “We went to Mangaung prison where they handed us Tebogo’s belongings, but no one would talk to us.” When Robert saw the body of his brother at the state mortuary, things became even stranger. “He had a split lip, there was still dried-up blood on his lips.” Later, in the funeral home, Robert touched his brother’s body around his kidneys. “Some brown stuff, like cream, came off and the skin below was greenish.”

Nelani’s and Bereng’s suspicious passing are not the first or last death that has raised eyebrows at the embattled prison. The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) in its 2014 report signalled : “the contractor [G4S] breached clause 20 of the Concession Contract and Emergency Order No 3 namely by failing to comply with operating procedures by not getting into the cell immediately when they became aware of a suicide and resuscitating the inmate, failing to preserve the crime scene and failing to inform the controller within an hour of the incident”. It further stated that G4S had not provided an autopsy report for an alleged suicide that took place on August 13 2013.

In the section of the DCS draft report that the WJP has in its possession it further reads: “Death investigation reports are either not available, signed or include an autopsy report. MCC to confirm that all unnatural deaths are reported to the Police and next of kin and also that a record is kept of all deaths at MCC.”

A leaked internal email, exchanged among duty directors and managers at G4S during October 2012 reveals a possible culture of covering up. Tertius du Toit, the manager Compliance writes: “Hi, please be informed that it has come under my attention that this inmate tried to hang himself last night.” He goes on to explain that the inmate was removed from Broadway to health care, but there was no registration of his removal in the records, neither at Broadway nor at the hospital. The managers and directors on duty that day make no mention of the attempted hanging either. Du Toit then warns the addressees: “I personally think that there are a few ‘gaps’ that need appropriate attention and that if it gets to the wrong ‘ears’ we could have huge problems in terms of not reporting.”

However, despite evidence of non-compliance by their officials in terms of use of force, the obligation not to torture and the correct handling of deaths in custody, G4S was handed back control of the prison a year ago. Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha visited the jail shortly after the handover and said to the media that he was “very impressed with the state-of-the-art facility”. The department issued a press release in which they stated they were satisfied that the “issues” in Mangaung Correctional Centre had been resolved. Why then DCS has taken so long to finalise and publish their report on Mangaung prison is as big a mystery as the murky deaths of the Bereng and Nelani.

Department of Correctional Services responds: 

Your inquiry, with regards to Mangaung Correctional Centre (MCC), refers.

As stated previously, with regards to the investigation into MCC, there are still outstanding matters and further investigations are continuing, with more information and source documents being requested, based on issues emanating from the preliminary report.

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has, most importantly, succeeded in stabilising the situation at the centre, and in restoring effective control, discipline and rehabilitation programmes. In terms of the Correctional Services Act and other relevant legislation, any person/s found guilty of any violation/s must face the consequences of their actions. To this end, DCS is ensuring that no stone is left unturned in this investigation and any person/s found guilty will face the full might of the law.

1. When is the DCS report on Mangaung prison going to be finalised?

The draft report confirmed the necessity for further investigation into a number of areas. Therefore, as further investigations are continuing, at this stage there is no “final” report.

2. Will it be made public?

DCS has not acceded to requests, in terms of PAIA, for the report to be made public.

3. Why has it taken so long to finalise? It’s been nearly two years since Minister Ndebele announced the investigation.

The team appointed to take over Mangaung had to deal with stabilising, and managing, the centre, in addition to conducting the investigation. Several shortcomings, particularly in terms of accessing source documents, were identified, leading to the need for further responses from BCC.

4. Why did a draft DCS report (a section of which the WJP has in its possession) contain this information about the death of inmate Isaac Nelani? “In respect of death of Isaac Nelani, a discrepancy exists between MCC [Mangaung Correctional Centre] and pathologist records, MCC records the death as a suicide, whilst pathologist records it as a head wound.”

DCS is not aware of any reference to a head wound with regard to Isaac Nelani. We request that such information be provided to DCS for investigation.

5. Why is there a discrepancy between the draft report and the pathologists’ report? Which information did the DCS task force base its comments on?

As far as DCS is aware, none of the documents refer to a head wound. 

6. Why have the people involved in Nelani’s death not been questioned or brought to justice?

Following an investigation into Nelani’s death by the Departmental Investigation Unit (DIU), the matter was referred to the SAPS for criminal investigation. DCS does not have the mandate to conduct a criminal investigation.

7. What kind of consequences, if any, does G4S have to face for the death of Isaac Nelani? The pathologist deemed the death “suspicious” and he points out that blunt force caused the bruising of the heart, which indicates severe injury/assault.

Should there be a finding in any case that the procedures/policies or terms of contract have not been adhered to by the Contractor, DCS refers the case to the Supervisory Committee for a ruling on penalties against the Contractor. As stated above, DCS can only act in terms of the contract and cannot initiate a criminal investigation. However, where DCS becomes aware of possible criminal liability, the matter is referred to the SAPS.

8. JICS signals another suspicious death, on 13 August 2013 of an inmate named Mosotho. No pathology report was provided. What is DCS doing about this?

The National Commissioner has appointed a Task Team to look into all unnatural deaths at MCC. In this regard, all necessary documents have been requested from the Contractor. Where these documents have not been submitted (and should be in terms of the Contract), the matter is referred to the Supervisory Committee in terms of the Contract. Any possible criminal investigation will be referred to the SAPS. It must be understood that DCS does not have this capacity (of the Task Team) immediately available, and personnel are drawn from their current duties. As such, this takes some time. The matter of Mosuthu has been referred to a magistrate for an inquest. The inquest docket would have a pathologist’s report.

9. Inmate Tebogo Bereng was epileptic and according to eyewitness accounts, he was electroshocked repeatedly to the head on 31 March 2013, which most likely caused his death. Is DCS aware this happened? Will DCS investigate this death?

Please refer to response above.

10. The DCS draft report also mentions: “Death investigation reports are either not available, signed or include an autopsy report. MCC to confirm that all unnatural deaths are reported to the Police and next of kin and also that a record is kept of all deaths at MCC.” What is DCS doing about this?

Please refer to response above. 

11. Does DCS consider G4S capable of running a prison if it covers up deaths in custody and fails to provide death investigation reports and pathologist’s reports?

Until investigations have been completed, DCS is unable to comment in this regard. DCS certainly takes any allegations of deaths in custody seriously. Hence, the appointment of the Task Team. However, the non-availability of documentation cannot always be said to be the fault of the Contractor, and, hence, the need for an investigation. 

12. What kind of fines have been issued against G4S? How many and what is the amount?

In terms of the Correctional Services Act, Section 112 was instituted against the Contractor.

G4S response:

Allegations – Mangaung Correctional Centre – Death of inmates

A draft report was passed to Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts (BCC) by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) last year. BCC has since responded in detail. G4S is confident that it complies with all the laws and regulations which stipulate in detail how investigations are conducted following the death of a prisoner and are committed to fully cooperate with the DCS. We strive at all times to uphold the rights of inmates and treat them accordingly.

Copyright Ruth Hopkins 2015

Related on F&O

Private prison operator accused of using drugs and electric shocks. By Ruth Hopkins, 2014 (*Subscription or day pass) 

F&O Hopkins

 A South African prison, run by the beleaguered multinational private security company G4S, allegedly forcibly injected inmates with antipsychotic medication and used electroshocks to subdue and control them. Prisoners, warders and health care workers said that involuntary medication was regularly practised at the Mangaung Correctional Centre near Bloemfontein. The company, G4S, denies any acts of assault or torture. The allegations are according to at least 35 sources – prisoners as well as security guards, prison and health officials – and based on medical records seen by reliable sources, legal documents and video footage shot inside the prison.

What has gone so horribly wrong with South Africa’s police? By Ruth Hopkins, 2013 (*Subscription or day pass)  

Steven Mothao was walking back home from a piece job on August 10, 2010, through Fordsburg in Joburg. Out of nowhere, three police officers appeared and pushed him against a wall. While onlookers gawked, the police officers slammed Mothao into a police van. He was detained in a police cell for 22 hours. For the first 14, he wasn’t offered a glass of water. Then Mothao was out on the street again. The police officers never identified themselves, they did not have an arrest warrant, and they did not inform Mothao of the reasons for his arrest. He sued the Minister of Police for damages and was awarded R150 000 in March. 

~~~

RuthHopkins-FAOFacts and Opinions contributor Ruth Hopkins is a senior journalist with the Wits Justice Project in Johannesburg, South Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us, with a subscription, (here), a donation (below), and/or by spreading the word.

 

 

Posted in Also tagged , , , |

Oscar Pistorius and South African justice

399px-Oscar_Pistorius_2_Daegu_2011

Oscar Pistorius — “Blade Runner” — during 2011 World championships athletics in Daegu. Photo by Erik van Leeuwen, GNU Free Documentation License.

Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympian known as Blade Runner, was found not guilty in South Africa on Thursday of premeditated murder in the shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a law graduate and model. Pistorius was convicted Friday** of unlawful homicide, a charge similar to that of manslaughter in other countries.

“I am not persuaded that a reasonable person … would have fired four shots into a toilet cubicle,” ruled Judge Thokozile Masipa Thursday, reported the Mail and Guardian. The judge said Pistorius used excessive force, was “negligent,” and “culpable homicide is a competent verdict.”

The court heard evidence that Pistorius killed Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013 by firing his gun through the locked door of his toilet. He claimed he thought she was an intruder.

The trial has enthralled the world with its global media attention, but there is far more to the case than a murder. Interpretations of the high-profile drama range from its relevance to domestic violence, race relations, politics, media attention, and disabilities. This New York Times video nicely summarizes how Pistorius fascinates the world. Some argue the case — in which a man with white skin was judged by a woman with black skin — reveals South Africa’s post-apartheid progress. For example, wrote David Smith in The Guardian: “The notion that Masipa, who began studying law during apartheid and became only the second black woman appointed to the high court, is holding 27-year-old Pistorius’s fate in her hands would once have been unthinkable.”

But the real nub of the case, suggested Ruth Hopkins in her report earlier on F&O, is how the Pistorius trial exposed class justice in the new South Africa. An excerpt of Hopkins’ April dispatch (subscription* required), Oscar Pistorius and South Africa’s VIP Justice: 

Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial in South Africa, dubbed the trial of the century, has hogged the limelight since he was arrested and charged for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year. The court room in the Pretoria High Court has become the focal point of the world’s media. Pistorius’ lawyer Barry Roux stole the show when he impressed both friend and foe by tenaciously laying bare inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimonies, narrowing in on forensic evidence incorrectly secured by officers at the crime scene, and challenging the state’s version of events. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has contested the defence’s evidence with equal tenacity. The legal spectacle that is unfolding has provided a breath-taking expose of the South African criminal justice system. This has led some commentators to conclude that the justice system itself is on trial.

Reeva_Steenkamp

Reeva Steenkamp. Photo handout released by Capacity Relations on Feb 14, 2013, via Wikipedia

The so-called OP case however, is hardly representative of the criminal justice system in this country, but rather exposes the ugly face of class justice. The trial has revealed a level of quality of the legal process that the criminal justice system is capable of producing, when a defendant with ample financial resources is on trial and the glaring spotlight of the world’s media is focused on court officials.

British honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani’s arrival in a privately chartered plane – paid for by the Department of Justice – flanked by medical staff to tend to his unstable mental condition, similarly sends the message that the South African courts respect and uphold human rights, most importantly the right to a fair trial.

But ordinary South African citizens are by no means guaranteed a fair trial. They battle a dysfunctional court system where bail is denied for no apparent reason, transcripts go missing, where lengthy delays put presumed innocent suspects behind bars for years, where overworked state-funded lawyers do not bother to question glaring inconsistencies, shoddy evidence and lying police officers. Inmates with medical conditions struggle to access medication, medical staff and legal relief for their conditions … read Oscar Pistorius and South Africa’s VIP Justice (*log in or subscribe first.)

 

 

 

 

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support (a day pass is a buck and monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee), but if you’d like to give us a try before throwing pennies our way, email Editor@factsandopinions.com, and I will send you a complimentary day pass. 

** POST UPDATED Friday September 12 

Facts and Opinions is a select boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. 

Posted in Current Affairs Also tagged , , |

The BRICS hit a wall: Manthorpe

640px-Rio_de_janeiro_copacabana_beach_2010

Copacabana Beach

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have not lived up to the grandiose hopes expressed for them 13 years ago, when it was predicted the developing countries would soon overtake the world’s top economies, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. An excerpt of today’s column:

There is probably little hope that when Terence James “Jim” O’Neill heard the news on Tuesday he buried his head under a pillow and groaned with embarrassment.

But perhaps he should have done.

It was O’Neill, who as head of Goldman Sachs’ global economics research in 2001, coined the term BRICs, by which he envisaged that the developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China would soon overtake the economic power of the seven top industrialized nations.

It was a charming thought that has captivated trade and economic discussion and debate for the last 13 years. But looking at the BRICS today  — the S of South Africa was added in 2010, apparently for reasons of inclusiveness rather than economic muscle – O’Neill’s prophesy looks at best overly-optimistic and at worst, out of reach.

The news on Tuesday that ought to have made O’Neill redden with shame was that James Coates, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, said Brazils preparations for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro are “the worst I have experienced.”

Log in to read the column Crumbling of the BRICs. (Subscription or day pass required*)

Click here for Jonathan Manthorpe’s page, with all of his columns for F&O.

*Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O serves and is entirely funded by readers who buy a subscription or a $1 site day pass. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes.

Posted in All, Current Affairs Also tagged , , , , , , , |

Oscar Pistorius and South Africa’s class justice

RuthHopkins-FAO

Ruth Hopkins

The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, the “Blade Runner” Olympian, reveals as much about the ugly face of South African class justice as it does about the details of the killing, writes Facts and Opinions contributor Ruth Hopkins in F&O‘s Justice section. The trial has revealed the level of quality of the legal process that the criminal justice system is capable of producing — but ordinary South African citizens are by no means guaranteed a fair trial. An excerpt:

Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial in South Africa, dubbed the trial of the century, has hogged the limelight since he was arrested for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year. The court room in the Pretoria High Court has become the focal point of the world’s media. Pistorius’ lawyer Barry Roux stole the show when he impressed both friend and foe by tenaciously laying bare inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimonies, narrowing in on forensic evidence incorrectly secured by officers at the crime scene, and challenging the state’s version of events. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has contested the defence’s evidence with equal tenacity. The legal spectacle that is unfolding has provided a breath-taking expose of the South African criminal justice system. This has led some commentators to conclude that the justicesystem itself is on trial.

The so-called OP case however, is hardly representative of the criminal justice system in this country, but rather exposes the ugly face of class justice. The trial has revealed a level of quality of the legal process that the criminal justice system is capable of producing, when a defendant with ample financial resources is on trial and the glaring spotlight of the world’s media is focused on court officials.

Log in to read Oscar Pistorius and South Africa’s VIP Justice by Ruth Hopkins. (Subscription or day pass*). More of Ruth Hopkins’ work is in Dispatches, Justice.

*Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O serves and is entirely funded by readers who buy a subscription or a $1 site day pass. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes.

Posted in All, Current Affairs Also tagged , , , , , , , |

South Africa’s solidarity unravelling

South Africa’s unlikely alliance, of forces drawn together by opposition to apartheid, was always expected to unravel, notes international affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe. That is now happening because, with public disgust at corruption and incompetence within the African National Congress (ANC) government — and not least a scorching new report by the nation’s Public Protector, the balance has shifted. Excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column:

Public Protector Adv.Thuli Madonsela

South African Public Protector Thulisile Madonsela. Photo credit Public Protector office

… while Mandela remained alive it seemed almost sacrilegious to seriously argue that the ANC has betrayed its cause. Even the rise to the leadership of the ANC and South Africa’s presidency of Jacob Zuma, a man whose rise to power is littered with sexual and corruption scandals, was not enough to outweigh the blessings of the Mandela legacy.

However, the shift in the balance between past and present seems to have arrived this week, and even as campaigning has begun for the May 7 general election.

The highly respected Public Prosecutor Thuli Madosela on Wednesday released her damning report into the $23 million in public money spent on building Zuma a rural family compound displaying “opulence on a grand scale” at Nkandla in the hills of KwaZulu-Natal, one of the poorest of South Africa’s provinces.

Log in to read the column Mandela’s heritage tainted by President Zuma’s graft.   ($1 site day pass or subscription required*)

 

*Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers who buy a subscription or a $1 site day pass. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes.

 

Posted in All, Current Affairs Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Analysis: South Africa’s nightmare

By Jonathan Manthorpe

Nelson Mandela has been praised to the rafters for promoting peace and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa, but there is precious little evidence on the ground that his message was heard or understood.

Read the column, The Nightmare of Mandela’s Dream in South Africa, here.*

Please note: log in first to read F&O columns, available to monthly subscribers or with a $1 day pass to Facts and Opinions.

 

Posted in Current Affairs Also tagged , , |

Nelson Mandela too good for government leadership

Nelson Mandela was too good for his or South Africa’s own good, writes international affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. Excerpt:

Mandela

Nelson Mandela speaks to reporters, including Jonathan Manthorpe (top), in the garden of his old house in Soweto two days after his release from Victor Verster prison on Feb. 11, 1990.

Those qualities of tolerance, forgiveness, respect for the others’ views, and uncritical loyalty to friends, comrades and family that made him one of the most saintly public figures of the last century, also framed his less than stellar performance as a government leader.

Mandela has bequeathed an almost unique culture of reconciliation that diverted South Africa from the real prospect in the early and mid-1990s of a blood bath either between whites and blacks, or between rival black ethnic groups or both.

But his humanitarian qualities also caused him to fail to exert the kind of leadership and sense of purpose in government to address the myriad of social problems borne of apartheid and that still, 20 years later, blight the lives of the vast majority of South Africa’s 52 million people …. read Manthorpe’s column here.*

*Please note, a $1 day pass or subscription is required to access premium work on F&O.

Posted in All, Current Affairs Also tagged |