A SMALL group of inmates on a hunger strike in a Free State prison have been urged to give officials time to address their grievances.
Deputy Minister of Correctional Services Hlengiwe Mkhize met six of about 90 inmates who embarked on a hunger strike during the past week.
"You have a set of issues, give us a chance to look at it," she told the group at the Mangaung Correctional Centre outside Bloemfontein yesterday.
The prison, which contains 2928 male offenders, is a maximum security facility, one of two in South Africa managed by a public-private partnerships.
Mkhize told the inmates to suspend their "food refusal" action to create a better environment for discussion.
"Let's fight verbally and create a partnership."
The inmates agreed to suspend the hunger strike.
Earlier one of the inmates, who cannot be named, told Mkhize that they had a problem with the "exploitative practices" at the prison.
He accused prison management of racism, corruption, propaganda, providing sub-standard training and not giving inmates Internet access.
The inmates were also not happy that the department's re-classification system was not applicable to the two privately run centres.
But Correctional Services deputy commissioner on security and remand Willem Damons said that though Mangaung prison was excluded, the re-classification (management) tool would be instituted soon.
He told the inmates not to see the re-classification tool as a way to get out of the maximum security prison. - Sapa