The Department of Correctional Services says no hunger strike is under way at Waainek Correctional Facility in Makhanda (Grahamstown); however, a source claims that nearly a third of the facility’s inmates have refused both food and medication for two days, including antiretrovirals and TB medication.
The main grievance of the inmates is reportedly that there is no parole board at Waainek and so there are prisoners who should have been considered for release on parole in the facility who need not be. Additional allegations were that the prisoners don’t receive enough food; there are no cleaning materials and that there is no clothing for the inmates.
Spokesperson for Correctional Services in the Eastern Cape Nobuntu Gantana said the Parole Board had not sat during March 2019 because the contracts of the chairpersons of Correctional Supervision and the Parole Board had expired.
“The Chairpersons will sit as from the second week of April to consider eligible offenders who were not considered for parole last month,” Gantana told Grocott’s Mail in an emailed reply.
She also said there had been a delay in the delivery of cleaning material by service providers, but that alternative arrangements had been made to source cleaning material from other centres.
However, of alleged food shortages, Gantana said all inmates had received sufficient food on the dates in questions (1 and 2 April 2019). Of clothing, Gantana said, “Grahamstown offenders have uniforms.”
Questions about inmate numbers were deflected for security reasons.
Our source said around 250 inmates were refusing not only food, but also their TB treatment and their ARVs, and so Grocott’s Mail asked how many inmates were on such treatment. Gantana said, “We cannot divulge medical information.”
According to previously published media reports, Waainek has the capacity to house around 700 inmates.
While Correctional Services is adamant there is no hunger strike under way, Grocott’s Mail’s source said around 250 inmates in the biggest section of the facility, A Section, are on a hunger strike.