Torture will not be tolerated, says minister

2011-07-20 21:39

kalahari.com

Pretoria - An inmate who was allegedly tortured by warders at the Pretoria Central Prison received a visit from Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Wednesday.

In a statement released after the visit, Mapisa-Nqakula said she had wanted to see for herself how the alleged victim Jonas Makhufola was doing following his alleged ordeal.

Her visit follows claims that six warders at Pretoria Central Prison used an electrified riot shield to torture Makhufola on July 12, apparently in a bid to get him to reveal where he was hiding a cellphone.

A sound recording of what is claimed to be warders shocking the remand prisoner was smuggled out of the prison, and aired on Radio 702 earlier this week.

"I came to see for myself the condition of the alleged victim of torture by our officials. He is well and confirms that he is not suffering any form of pain nor injury," she said.

Not tolerated

Mapisa-Nqakula said that she could not comment until the outcome of the investigation but said any ill treatment of inmates, whether they have been sentenced or not, would not be tolerated.

Correctional Services spokesperson Phumlani Ximiya said earlier in a statement that action would be taken against any worker who contravened legislation or departmental policies.

"Any suspected criminal activity will also be investigated by the South African Police Service."

Ximiya was commenting on claims that six warders at Pretoria Central Prison used an electrified riot shield to torture a prisoner awaiting trial on July 12, apparently in a bid to get him to reveal where he was hiding a cellphone.

A sound recording of what is claimed to be warders shocking the prisoner was smuggled out of the prison, and aired on Radio 702.

Police spokesperson Wanda Olivier told the radio station a case of assault had been opened, and that arrests were imminent.

The SA Human Rights Commission on Wednesday urged the justice department to fast-track the combating of torture bill to comply with its international obligations and prohibit torture.

"Currently, the act of torture is not a recognised statutory crime in South Africa," commission spokesperson Vincent Moaga said in a statement.

Legislation

"Torture legislation is needed [so] that the criminal justice system can deal more effectively with acts of torture."

The Democratic Alliance said it would raise the issue with Parliament's portfolio committee on correctional services when next it meets.

"The use of any form of torture is completely unacceptable," MP James Selfe said in a statement.

"It simply brutalises inmates... and makes their reintegration into society more difficult."

He said it appeared the practice had been going on for some time and that a number of people were implicated.

Ximiya said correctional officials were issued with items such as batons, handcuffs, leg irons, teargas and pepper spray, electric shields and stun belts to ensure a secure environment.

Use of the devices was properly regulated by policies and procedures. None of the equipment was intended to be used to torture an inmate.

"The department's white paper on corrections in South Africa is equally clear that offenders and remand detainees must be kept in a humane manner and that they must be treated with dignity and respect.

"The white paper... commits the department to maintaining universally accepted standards and norms with regard to the treatment of offenders and to achieving constructive relations and co-operation with the international penal community," said Ximiya.

- SAPA

Read more on:    nosiviwe mapisa-nqakula  |  legislation  |  prisons
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