Prisoners organisation embarks on hunger strike in Covid-19 protest

Covid-19: Prisoners organisation embarks on hunger strike

Prisoners across the country have embarked on a hunger strike in a bid for an early release from prisons amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to the South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR).

Photo: Maryke Vermaak

The organisation says there is concern and panic among inmates over the spread of Covid-19 in the country’s overcrowded prisons.

So far the country has detected 99 cases of coronavirus at prisons.

These comprise 56 inmates at a jail in East London, while the remainder are prison employees, most of whom work at that facility, plus several others at three other sites.


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Spokesperson Golden Miles Bhudu says the demonstration follows failed attempts to engage with the Department of Correctional Services.

“Release both non-violent first-time offenders immediately. Release political prisoners, regardless of their affiliations.”

Bhudu says prisoners who have served at least 10 years of their sentence should also be released.

“Prisoners over the age of 60 years, terminally ill prisoners, certain women and parents with dependent children.”

Bhudu has also demanded a public apology from Minister Ronald Lamola, who accusing some inmates of seeking to capitalise on the outbreak.

“Minister Lamola owes us an apology. The other day, for one reason or another he went on a public outburst and said prisoners want to be released using the backdoor using coronavirus.

“How can he go around saying something that is insulting and undermining the integrity, as an organisation, and integrity of the people that are being infected everyday by his prison wardens?”

He warned the department to ensure the safety of prisoners during the planned protest or they could find themselves with a naked protest on their hands.

“His bouncers have already started intimidating prisoners and that is going to provoke prisoners and let’s pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost that prisoners don’t respond.”

Bhudu has given the department until Wednesday to respond to their demands.

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