South African government launches investigation into allegations of abuse at former G4S prison

A leaked film allegedly depicts electrocution and inmates having medication forced upon them

South African authorities have launched an investigation into footage which researchers claim depicts the “torture” of prisoners at one of the country’s reportedly most dangerous prisons.

The film, shot in May, comes a month after the South African government took control of the facility from UK security firm G4S, because it was alleged to have lost control. 

The film was shot by the prison’s emergency security team (EST), which is legally required to film all of its actions, the sound of what is claimed to be electrified shocks can heard as a man wails. It also shows a prisoner resisting what is reported to be anti-psychotic medication after apparently complaining about food, despite having no known medical need for such a drug.

The EST is allowed to inject inmates against their will only if they are a danger to themselves or others, and if they are deemed incapable of making an informed decision. The man is shown pleading “No, no, no” and “I am not a donkey” as five guards hold him down.

The footage comes from a year-long research project conducted at the Mangaung Correctional Centre near Bloemfontein by the Wits Justice Project (WJP) at University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The team also heard accounts of electric shocks and beatings from almost 30 prisoners by staff at the facility which holds 3,000 high-risk inmates.

"Some said they would pass out when the shocks became too intense," said Ruth Hopkins, a journalist with the WJP. She also said they had been told that inmates suffered broken limbs and other serious injuries.

An ex-inmate told the BBC that electric shocks were used as “torture”, and a former G4S security guard alleged that prisoners were doused with water to heighten the danger of electric shocks administered.

Lawyers representing some of the prisoners have condemned the impunity of prison staff.

G4S denies any allegations of torture or assault, and instead blames a string of violence that led to South African authorities taking over control of the facility on the dismissal of 330 warders following an illegal strike in August and September.

The Department of Correctional Services took control over the centre in early October because of a “worrying deterioration of safety and security” according to Nontsikelelo Jolingana, the department's acting national commissioner. She also said that G4S “had lost effective control of the facility”, and that since the sacking of prison staff, the facility has used unqualified staff, which is illegal.

Andy Baker, president of G4S Africa, told reporters earlier this month regarding the government takeover that: "The Mangaung correctional centre has an impeccable track record in maintaining the safety of both inmates and employees."

In response to the leaked footage he told the BBC that administering and prescribing injections was not the domain of G4S staff, but of a separate medical staff, and to his knowledge there had "never been" electric shocking or beating at the centre. 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot