Prison rights activist Golden Miles Bhudu revealed that thousands of prisoners across the country from next week will engage in “nudity and hunger” strike action, demanding that President Cyril Ramaphosa lift the continuing ban on prison visits.
The ban was imposed 3 months ago under level 5 as part of limiting the spread of Covid-19 within the prison population.
The outspoken SA Prisoners’ Organisation for Human Rights (Sapohr) said offenders were left disappointed when Ramaphosa announced a further relaxation of regulations but left out the prison visits ban.
Bhudu said he had written to Ramaphosa and Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola asking them to reveal before June 17 when the ban on prison visits would be lifted, but he had not received a response.
Bhudu in a press statement disclosed that as from Monday (next week), Sapohr will have no other alternative and as a last resort had called for prison disobedience in South African prisons.
This action will include (prisoners) refusing to work, stripping naked, refusing to eat and be counted, mobilising and conscientising the prisoner population to stand up and fight for their rights.
However, Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo insisted that visitations would remain suspended as “a measure to buffer the heightened risk of infections and flatten the curve”.
Bhudu said Ramaphosa should have considered that the visits were part of much-needed rehabilitation of prisoners.
He said prison visits needed to be managed.
He said there could be no Covid-19 infection at Medium A, where awaiting trial prisoners and their visitors were separated by a window.
He said even among the sentenced prisoners, some did not get contact visits.
He suggested that instead of prisoners having no visitors at all, there should be a system where a limited and manageable number of visitors could be allowed per day.
He said the deprivation of visitors had a negative effect on prisoners.
Nxumalo said prisoners could still rely on the use of telephones to communicate with their loved ones. He said the visit suspension had helped in removing drugs within prison facilities.
He warned that the incitement of offenders was reckless and harmful.
Nxumalo revealed that the department will continue to monitor the behavior of offenders and uproot any elements that may undermine safe and humane conditions as prescribed by the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998.
When contacted, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said: “Government will be covered by the responses from Correctional Services.”