Fear of COVID-19 In Jails As Official Tests Positive In South Africa


South African authorities are on high alert fearing for the spread of COVID-19 in jails. This is after a jail official tested positive. On the other hand, inmates are in panic and are threatening to riot.

In Johannesburg’s most notorious prison – the Johannesburg Correctional Center, popularly known as Sun City, inmates are in a panic. They are sleeping with one eye open following reports that an official had tested positive of COVID-19.

While there has not been an official report of an inmate having tested positive, authorities have in response moved with speed to test the inmates. This is because an outbreak of COVID-19 in jails would be uncontrollable.

Confirming this, Ronald Lamola, the minister for Justice and Correctional Services said the government is currently testing for COVID-19 in jails.

About 16,000 inmates have already been tested and none had been confirmed as positive.

Inadequate testing capacity

Lamola said the government planned on testing as many as possible. This would, however, be ad hoc based as the testing capacity was not adequate.

To ensure the risk of COVID-19 in jails is minimized, Lamola further said all jail officials were tested. They would also be screened every time they came in for their shifts. This would also be done for inmates whenever they move around.

But while the government has said there’s not a single case of COVID-19 in jails, the inmates at Sun City are hearing none of this.

To them, they have been neglected and left to die in the hands of the virus. The facility holds at least 9000 inmates.

To show their displeasure, a female inmate recorded herself lamenting the poor condition in which they were living in. She further went ahead to declare the right for prisoners to appear before a court of law was being violated.

Since the lockdown, prisoners awaiting trial have had to wait as most court processes had been halted.

In protest, the prisoners awaiting trial would burn things in their cells only to be beaten and teargassed by jail officials.

Corruption in jail

The prisoner further alleged that a juvenile prisoner in the facility had tested positive of COVID-19. The minor was placed in isolation but the jail officials kept it a secret. She ended the recording hoping it would reach President Cyril Ramaphosa and that he would come to their rescue.

Though the authenticity of her claims cannot be verified, inmates in Sun City are now in a panic fearing for their lives.

The female prisoner is not the only one alleging the presence of COVID-19 in jails. A recently convicted male prisoner wrote a lengthy message on social media detailing the state of Coronavirus in Sun City.

According to him, corruption in the facility would make it difficult to control an outbreak. This is because some wardens often colluded with some inmates to allow illegal activities and items to be brought into cells.

The crowded nature of the prison also made it impossible to practice social distancing.

In preparation for mitigation, Sun City has now created a designated quarantine and isolation area for all suspected cases. It has also embraced video conferencing to help inmates appear before a court session while still within the prison.

Zweli Mkhize, the Minister for Health has expressed optimism that the mass testing and screening of inmates and officials would help curb COVID-19 in jails.

Currently, South Africa leads the continent with at least 1845 confirmed COVID-19 cases.



Related Posts

Illuminating the Promise of Africa.

Receive captivating stories direct to your inbox that reveal the cultures, innovations, and changemakers shaping the continent.