Earlier this month the Johannesburg government was forced to intervene to restore order at the prison after the British contractor group ‘lost effective control of the facility’ during a wave of violence.
The allegations are part of an investigation by the Wits Justice Project at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, in which at least 30 prisoners confessed to being electrically shocked and beaten with some saying that they were forcibly injected with anti-psychotic medication.
“A pattern that emerged throughout my investigation is that inmates who were considered difficult or who were involved in some problem, they would take them to the single cells in the prison, strip them naked, pour water over them, put them on a metal bed frame and use these electroshock shields to shock them”, said Ruth Hopkins, an investigative journalist with the Wits Justice Project.
G4S blamed the escalation in violence at the high security prison on the sacking of 300 prison guards over an illegal strike in August and September.
However, South Africa’s correctional services minister, Sibusiso Ndebele, promised an exhaustive investigation.
“We view these allegations in a very serious light,” he said. ‘We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that those implicated in such inhumane acts face the consequences of their actions.’
James Smalberger, chief deputy commissioner of incarceration and corrections, said safety and security issues at the prison, which holds 3,000 inmates, were under scrutiny well before the most recent allegations.
“There were assaults, there was labour unrest, there were hostage situations, that were a clear indication that there was not effective control,” he said.