Heard about Mangaung? No, not the site of the 1912 founding of the ANC nor last year’s ANC Conference. The real Mangaung. The prison. Mangaung Prison, run by G4S, is the world’s second largest private prison in the world. G4S is proud of that. They’re not so proud of last month’s allegations, revealed by Ruth Hopkins of the Wits Justice Project, of gross, brutal and widespread torture, forced anti-psychotics and shock therapy, and general anarchy and chaos on the part of the staff.
The nation was ‘shocked’. The world was ‘shocked’. Those who follow prisons, and not only in South Africa, were not surprised, but hopeful that perhaps something might be done. To absolutely no one’s surprise, G4S, already embroiled in fraud and deceit scandals in its United Kingdom operations, denied the charges. In fact, they argued that, to the very very contrary, Mangaung Prison is an “excellent example” of private-public partnership. An investigation was launched by the Government.
On Tuesday, November 5, Correctional Services Minister Sbu Ndebele announced to Parliament that, in South Africa, prison privatization is a failure. The Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services agreed. The Committee was also told that a two-pronged investigation would be released two weeks hence. In other words, three days ago.
Heard about Mangaung? No? Neither has the Committee on Correctional Services, and neither has the country or the world. Instead, the publicly supported ‘private hell’, the Black Hole, that is Mangaung, and has been Mangaung since its 2001 opening as the first private prison on the African continent, a pearl in the NEPAD crown, has dropped into its own black hole … yet again.
And that is a damn shame.