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South Africa probes G4S torture claims

Investigation launched into electric shocks at private prison

South African ministers have launched an inquiry into claims of torture at the privatised Mangaung prison.

Reports suggested that unqualified staff hired by privateer G4S had forcibly injected inmates with anti-psychotic medication and used electric shocks to “subdue and control them.”

The probe will be led by Gauteng Regional Commissioner Zacharia Modise, who has been managing the prison since October 9 when the department took over the poorly run facility outside Bloemfontein.

“Our last interaction with a senior representative of G4S convinced my team and me that the contractor has effectively lost control of the facility,” said acting national commissioner Nontsikelelo Jolingana at the time.

G4S had dismissed 330 Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) members who raised the alarm about bosses’ incompetence and refused to return to work after a strike.

Ms Jolingana said the department decided to intervene after G4S admitted it was using uncertified staff to do the job of the sacked workers.

“There is more concentration on profit margins than provision of services while enjoying wastage of public funds which could be invested in other critical programmes,” Popcru said at the time.

The union also called on the government to take over South Africa’s other private prison in Limpopo “before we witness similar petrifying scenes.”

But the inquiry will mainly focus on allegations of torture.

The University of Witwatersrand’s Wits Justice Project has been investigating the G4S-run jail for over a year and has well-documented evidence of staff forcibly injecting inmates with anti-psychotic drugs and using electric shocks to control prisoners.

This is based on evidence from prisoners, security guards, prison and health officials — and video footage shot inside the prison.

A sacked security guard has even said that water was thrown over inmates to increase the impact of electric shocks.

But G4S Africa boss Andy Baker said that to his knowledge there had “never been abuse of this type or nature” and insisted that administering and prescribing injections was not carried out by G4S staff.

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