Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
Lubabalo Ngcukana and Thanduxolo Jika
The full horror of the country's most overcrowded prison was revealed in a shocking photograph showing what warders say are 300 men crammed into a cell built for 15.
The Daily Despatch newspaper in Eastern Cape exposed the conditions in Mthatha Medium Prison, which is more than 400 percent overcrowded. Inmates are so squashed they are forced to sleep sitting up.
The conditions could potentially spark escapes because there is one warder for the 200 inmates.
There are only two toilets for the 300 inmates in one cell and not a single mattress. Rape and disease is rife and some single cells accommodate up to 11 prisoners.
The photos in the newspaper were taken at 9.30pm and show warders squeezing more men into the packed cell.
Most of the inmates are prisoners awaiting trial.
During the newspaper's visit, armed with hidden cameras, prisoners begged reporters to help them.
"This place is too overcrowded," said one prisoner. "We are going to die here. Could you please do something?"
Inmates complained that they were being eaten alive by lice.
The prison accommodates 2491 inmates. Of these, 1598 are awaiting trial.
"There should not be more than 15 prisoners in that cell, but there are more than 300 squashed in there," a warder said.
Daily Dispatch reporters spotted young boys among the adults.
A warder said the chances of being infected with HIV was very high.
"If you are locked up in there for even only one day chances are high that you will come out a rape victim," the warder said.
"Almost every day rapes are reported. But some prisoners do not come forward because they are afraid of being victimised."
Last week the Correctional Services Department and Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons (JIP), which visited the prison in January, confirmed the overcrowding.
Acting JIP director of functional services Pritima Osman said the approved lock-up total should be 580 inmates.
"This means the centre is 429 percent overcrowded. Prisoners not yet sentenced or awaiting trial are by far the largest number of inmates." - Daily Dispatch