South African Prisons

Prisons in South Africa are run by the Department of Correctional Services. According to the ministry, there are approximately 34,000 employees of the department running 240 prisons. In those prisons are nearly 156,000 inmates as of August 2013. The prisons include minimum, medium and maximum security facilities. Since 2012, the Minister of Correctional Services has been S’bu Ndebele.

The latest available prisoner statistics from across the world shows which country has the largest prison population – and where South Africa fits into the picture. According to the World Prison Brief by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, South Africa has a total prisoner population of 159,241 people as of March 2015 – including pre-trial detainees. This represents the 11th highest prisoner population in the world in terms of sheer numbers, but only 35th (out of 222 regions) with 292 prisoners per 100,000 people.

The United States tops the rankings globally, with 2.2 million prisoners in its criminal justice system. The US figures include 731,200 people in local jails, as well as 1.48 milllion people in state or federal prisons. The USA has 4,575 confinement facilities with an official holding capacity of 2,157,769. China has the second highest prison population in the world, with 1.65 million prisoners, followed by Russia with 644,700 prisoners.

San Marino – a ‘micro-state’ surrounded by Italy has only two prisoners (out of a population of 33,700), the lowest figure in the world, ahead of Liechtenstein, with seven prisoners out of a population of 37,130. San Marino also has the lowest prisoner rate in the world, at 6 per 100,000 people.

While the USA has the biggest prisoner population in the world, the Seychelles, with a population of 92,000 trumps the USA for the highest rate of prisoners, with 799 per 100,000. The USA is still rated second, however, with 698 prisoners per 100,000 people. According to the Seychelles News Agency, the majority of nearly 800 inmates are incarcerated in the main Montagne Posée Prison, some 500 of them. The remaining are either in the Open prison on Coetivy island, 290 kilometres south of the main island of Mahé, which is for the rehabilitation of prisoners or in the prison where drug traffickers, sexual offenders and refractory prisoners are incarcerated, on Marie-Louise, an outer island of the Seychelles.

More than 400,000 US inmates are awaiting trial,  while more than 166,000 inmates are incarcerated for murder, 95,000 for sexual assault, and 70,000 for rape.

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s report on South Africa has painted a grim picture of the country’s prisons. The committee on South Africa reported a slew of factors contributing to poor conditions at state detention centres. “The committee is concerned at poor conditions of detention in some of the state’s prisons, particularly with respect to overcrowding, dilapidated infrastructures, unsanitary conditions, inadequate food, lack of exercise, poor ventilation, and limited access to health services,” it read.

“The committee notes with concern the conditions of detention in the two super-maximum security prisons and the segregation measures imposed, for instance in Ebongweni super-maximum prison, where prisoners are locked up 23 hours a day for a minimum period of six months.”  The committee recommended that the state take drastic steps to reduce overcrowding and ensure that detainees were treated with dignity. “Ensure that de facto solitary confinement measures, including segregation, are used only in the most exceptional circumstances and for strictly limited periods of a short duration,” it said. The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) said overcrowding and understaffing in prisons remained an issue.

“This is a challenge on ablution facilities, the rising levels of violence among inmates and in ensuring the very objective of rehabilitating inmates, with a view of reintegrating them back into society,” Popcru said. “Various studies indicate that approximately 85% to 94% of prisoners in South Africa re-offend after their release, which means the current system of rehabilitation needs to urgently be redefined. “Due to very little technical and life skills of the inmates, survival outside of the prison environment becomes very difficult and many tend to re-offend because in their view life is easier in prison.”

What’s life like in a South African prison?

A stuffy, overcrowded cell. At times, two or three men to a single bunk. Lockdown for 23 out of 24 hours. Is this what awaits South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius if he is found guilty of premeditated murder in the death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamplast year? Some of South Africa’s prisons are better than others. But whichever one might house Pistorius, there’s no question that conditions would be a far cry from those in his $560,000 home in the luxury Silverwoods Estate, on the outskirts of Pretoria.

South African prisons are frequently overcrowded, putting a strain on sanitation, ventilation and medical care, according to Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, project coordinator for the Johannesburg-based Wits Justice Project , a civil society group. The overcrowding means three men may share a single cell, or communal cells for 40 people are jammed with double the number they were intended to hold, with men sleeping in double or triple bunks, she said. “We heard of one person who for the first year in remand detention slept on the floor and then ‘graduated’ to a bunk,” she said. Remand is the term used for pretrial custody. Many inmates are kept locked up for 23 hours a day, with only an hour outside their cell. Some prisons go into lockdown as early as 3 or 4 p.m., leaving prisoners cooped up for 12 hours or more at a stretch.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” Erfani-Ghadimi said.

Overcrowding is a particular problem in remand prisons, where it runs at just over 200%, she said, citing figures from the Department of Correctional Services. Overall, overcrowding in prisons stands at about 133%.

Special treatment?

The track star’s high-profile case has put South Africa’s criminal justice system under the spotlight. Observers asked why Pistorius, a gold medal-winning Paralympian, was detained in a holding cell at the Brooklyn Police Station after Steenkamp’s death last February — and not at Central Prison or Newlock, where other defendants awaiting trial are kept.

“If there is some special circumstance that permits this, authorities must share this with the public as they are setting a bad precedent,” the women’s branch of South Africa’s ruling party said in a prepared statement. “All should be treated equally before the law no matter your standing in society.”

Pistorius got special treatment, the African National Congress Women’s League said, adding that his family was able to see him outside visiting hours — unlike relatives of other inmates.

The 27-year-old has rejected the murder allegation “in the strongest terms,” his agent said in a statement.

Pistorius’ lawyers requested Brooklyn so that they could have access to their client over the weekend, following his arrest on Valentine’s Day in 2013. The state did not object.

The case of Shrien Dewani, a British man accused of hiring hitmen to kill his wife on their South African honeymoon, also cast the country’s criminal justice system in an unflattering light. His lawyers argued in 2012 that his extradition would breach his human rights under European law because he risked being attacked by other inmates in South African prisons.

While British High Court judges dismissed that part of Dewani’s argument — and last month ruled that he can be extradited to South Africa to stand trial — concerns about potential torture and abuse in detention are warranted, Erfani-Ghadimi said.

South Africa is a signatory to the U.N. Convention on Torture, but it has yet to ratify it, so such abuses have not been criminalized.

“A legacy of apartheid is that prison cells are still unfortunately a place where prisoners can be abused,” Erfani-Ghadimi said.

Amnesty International’s Annual Report 2012, which looked at human rights around the world, also said that a draft law to make torture a criminal offense had not been presented in South Africa’s parliament by the end of the year.

Human dignity

Nevertheless, said Erfani-Ghadimi, the problem doesn’t lie in South Africa’s laws so much as in the ability of the justice system to cope with the number of inmates in the system.

South Africa’s constitution and its bill of rights, with regard to prisoners’ rights, are among the best in the world, she said. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily translate into practice.”

She says she thinks conditions are improving, however, thanks in part to the strength of those constitutional rights and the work of civil society organizations campaigning for change.

And Pistorius, if he is eventually convicted and jailed, should find that his particular medical needs as a double amputee are taken into account, she said.

This could mean that he is sent to a prison with better medical facilities or wheelchair access, she suggested.

According to the bill of rights, prisoners are entitled to “be detained in conditions that are consistent with human dignity, including at least exercise and the provision, at state expense, of adequate accommodation, nutrition, medical treatment.”

Correctional Services Department spokesman Koos Gerber said South Africa’s detention facilities, whether for remand prisoners or those serving prison terms, “can accommodate people with any disabilities.”

“We have a general problem of overcrowding but we have learned to live with it,” said Gerber, adding that extra bunks have been added to make sure all remand prisoners have a bed. Hospital facilities are also available at all times, he said.

According to official figures for 2011 to 2012, there were 158,790 prison inmates in South Africa, a nation of nearly 52 million, of whom about 30% were on remand awaiting trial.

This compares with about 2.2 million people in prisons or jails in the United States at the end of 2011, according to U.S. Department of Justice figures. Crowding in U.S. prisons stood at 39% over capacity in 2011, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Long wait for trial

Erfani-Ghadimi blames systemic problems for South Africa’s overcrowding. One issue is that police are quick to arrest people, she said, and they have only 48 hours from arrest to bring charges.

After they are charged, many suspects cannot afford to make bail or hire a lawyer and so are forced to spend months or even years behind bars awaiting trial, she said.

Investigations are often poorly run and courtrooms can be overcrowded, adding to the hurdles faced by those on remand, she said.

“Because the system is cumbersome and slow, there’s a lot of people stuck waiting — and that means the conditions are not by any means ideal,” she added.

A “statement of agreed factual findings” filed in a Constitutional Court ruling in December, in favor of a man who contracted tuberculosis while imprisoned, gives insight into what could lie ahead for Pistorius.

The statement describes the conditions Dudley Lee endured in Cape Town’s Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison — where Nelson Mandela was once held — before he was eventually acquitted and freed.

Prisoners going to court appearances were “stuffed into vans like sardines,” it said. Holding cells at court were also “jam-packed.” Meanwhile, conditions back at the prison were far from pleasant — though ideal for the spread of disease.

Packed, smoky cells

The air inside the communal cells, locked down without cross-ventilation for up to 15 hours a day, was thick with cigarette smoke, the statement said. Even after Lee was diagnosed with TB, he was kept in a cell with other prisoners. He “begged, bullied and bribed” to get the medication he needed.

As a world-famous athlete, Pistorius has money to pay for good defense attorneys, unlike many in the South African justice system. He stated his annual income was 5.6 million rand ($631,000) at his bail hearing in February of last year.

A Pretoria magistrate granted Pistorius bail and he walked free on bond eight days after the shooting death of his girlfriend. But if convicted of premeditated murder, he would face 25 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

His lawyers will be trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Inside South Africa’s brutal prisons: ‘If I didn’t join a gang I’d have been raped’

On his first day in one of South Africa’s notorious Western Cape prisons, 16-year-old Ivor Swartz knew his only choice for survival was to join one of the brutal prison gangs that ruled the correctional centres. “If I didn’t join a gang very quickly, there’s a good chance I would have been raped in the first few days,” said Ivor. The choice he made would define the rest of his time in jail.

Ivor grew up in Grabouw, a small, quiet town in Western Cape, South Africa, known for growing apples and not much else. He had an upbringing typical of his area; poor, rife with street-violence and fatherless homes. Ivor’s father died when he was young so his older brother, Dion, took charge of the house. He was a tough man made hard by life in Grabouw. He was abusive to his family and drank heavily. “If I tell you he was monster, that’s a real understatement” said Ivor.
At 14 and unwilling to live under his brother’s rule, Ivor took to the streets. There, he befriended a group of young men under similar circumstances to his; from divorced families, broken homes and runaways. “The way we formed a group was simply because we shared our suffering. Our suffering pushed us to the street and brought us together,” he said.

The group shared their first drinks, first drugs, and even first burglary together. At 16 Ivor also became a father for the first time. Together the group assaulted people on the streets of Cape Town, taking their phones and wallets. They stole from people’s homes and smashed car windows, taking whatever may be valuable. With extreme overcrowding, sparse budget, and new prisoners pouring in every day, it seems prison warders have little to do but keep the prisoners contained and allow, to a degree, the running of the gang system.

Ivor’s gang shared a gun between them. It was a 38 calibre handgun that had been tossed on a fire by a previous owner on the run from the police. Someone had taped bright red duct tape to repair the handle: “I don’t know why we chose red because that made it look fake!” says Ivor, laughing and shaking his head. “But that gave us a bit of power to rob people on the street.”

One fateful night, Ivor and two friends entered a house while the home-owner was asleep inside. They held her at gun-point and took her TV and other belongings. Later that year, the surviving home-owner recognised Ivor in a line-up and he was arrested for the break-in. His fingerprints were found at that scene and later linked to another case of robbery in the area. Ivor was collectively sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison for the burglary charges. From ages 16 to 21 he would be behind bars. Ivor quickly associated with a gang, knowing full well it was his best chance for survival. He was alone, having left his family; and without access to money, joining a gang meant he had access to food, a bed and social interaction to pass the time.

There are around 240 prisons in South Africa, 42 of those are in the Western Cape housing nearly 30,000 prisoners. But these statistics don’t take into account criminals who were serving other kinds of sentences or have been released on bail. Ivor estimates around 80% of those prisoners in the Western Cape are gang members. There are hand signals for each gang; 26 is two thumbs up, 27 is thumbs up and index fingers pointing toward the horizon and 28 is thumbs up, index and middle finger together and pointing forward.

In these prisons there are three well-known gangs; 26s, 27s and 28s. Collectively known as the numbers gangs, they are notorious around the world. In stories, the history of the gangs goes back to 1812. “We don’t know if that is true but that’s the history and each gang must know their history” says Ivor. A history which changes depending on who speaks of it. The gangs are ranked much like the South African military service, from generals to privates, and run like a rookie military too. It’s rumoured the three gangs all originate from bands of fugitives that plagued late 19th and early 20th-century Johannesburg.

The numbers gangs were chiefly inspired by one bandit in particular, Nongoloza Mathebula, and his band of quasi-military outlaws. Some might remember him as an African version of Robin Hood, taking from the victors of South Africa’s colonial order and giving to the downtrodden victims.

The sole impetus of a 26 gang member is money and getting it by any means possible. As Ivor had spent much of his youth on the street hustling, the ideals, social order and code of conduct resonated. Violence was secondary to the goal of collecting cash so Ivor quickly associated with the 26s – known as the least brutal of the three gangs. The 26 gang has a strict membership policy and doesn’t allow anyone to join their gang who has been raped, snitched on anyone, or has any physical defects. A 26 candidate should be in good health, willing and able to fight for one’s camp.

28s, on the other hand, show no discrimination; a contributing factor to why it’s the largest known prison gang in South Africa. A 27s focus is drawing blood, particularly from a prison warder, a sure way to climb the ranks as a 27 member. Stabbings of prison warders are reported frequently, yet subtly, in South African news. Little is said about what encourages the attacks; supporting Ivor’s belief that the prison officials hope to conceal the numbers gangs’ true reign on the prisons.

There are two lines of the 28s – those that choose to climb the ranks by sodomising other prisoners and those who choose to stab warders. The 26s and 28s don’t get along and their animosity frequently descends into violence.

Igor Swartz

There are hand signals for each gang; 26 is two thumbs up, 27 is thumbs up and index fingers pointing toward the horizon and 28 is thumbs up, index and middle finger together and pointing forward. There is a slight distinction in the two signs for the sections of the 28’s. The ‘sodomy 28’s’ hold their index and middle fingers together when holding up their signs and the blood 28’s hold them apart.

The numbers gang system is an intricate social structure with its own language, codes of conduct and rules every member must adhere to. However, the system works only in the construct of prison. A high-ranking 27 from Pollsmoor Prison, inked to the ears, means nothing on the streets of Cape Town.

It doesn’t take long to get the picture that the numbers gangs run the prison. Uncontrollable prisoners make for very bad PR and the easiest way to maintain an illusion of control is to allow gang members to quietly maintain order. Ivor believes fighting against the gang system in prison will only lead to violent uproar and protest from the prisoners. With extreme overcrowding, sparse budget, and new prisoners pouring in every day, it seems prison warders have little to do but keep the prisoners contained and allow, to a degree, the running of the gang system.

The golden rule in prison? The fastest live the longest. “If you don’t stab first, you will get stabbed. That’s how we lived, every day,” says Ivor. The fight between will power and social pressure is an age-old battle and Ivor wasn’t always on the right side.

Ivor was released in December 2005 after serving his time. “Not a single minute of solitary confinement was as lonely and scary as that first day out.” Ivor recalls.

Sadly, not many prisoners make it past two months of being free. “Your gang becomes your family, what you live for,” says Ivor. Prisoners are so conditioned by the prison system, into their gang network and way of life that the outside world makes little sense anymore and their freedom becomes a new cage.

“Life is better in prison than on the outside, especially if you belong to a gang” says Ivor. “You’re respected, guaranteed a bed, blankets, food and a sense of community. Those things don’t come easily when you’re on your own on the outside.”

Ivor has been out of prison for 11 years. He is now a youth pastor working at St Paul’s United Church in Johannesburg. He thoroughly enjoys his work and is excited about his prospects at the church. “The church saw value in me and spoke worth into my life.” He admits he never pictured himself doing what he does, but now that he’s found God and helping to mould young minds, Ivor wouldn’t have it any other way.

More than 4,000 inmates will be evacuated from a South African jail after two inmates died from a rat-related disease due to “overcrowding” and “inhumane” conditions. The two inmates died last week from leptospirosis – a disease carried in rat urine.

Manelisi Wolela, a spokesperson for the department of correctional services responsible for the Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison outside Cape Town told news service Al Jazeera that an estimated “4,100 detainees” had been evacuated from the facility to prevent further spreading of the disease. The evacuation is expected to take between 6-8 weeks.


Survivors of prisoner rape tell their stories for the first time

Most of us have never heard about the horror of prisoner rape from someone who has survived it, and whose life was changed forever as a result. Most of us have not heard that much about prisoner rape at all.

These stories are told by three exceptionally brave men who have come forward to talk about surviving rape in South Africa’s prisons. Vincent*, Francois and Thabo* decided to help bring prisoner rape out of the shadows, and raise public awareness about this widespread violation of fundamental human rights. These are the first South African survivors of prisoner rape to tell their stories in this way.

The exact extent of rape in prison is unknown, but nearly half of all inmates surveyed by the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services reported that sexual abuse happens “sometimes”, “often” or “very often”. Sexual violence in prisons is linked to gang violence and its power structures, and inmates who are sexually abused are targets for repeated abuse, and usually are victimized again and again.

Reports estimate that a quarter of the inmate population has HIV. Rape creates a high risk for HIV transmission between inmates, inmates and officials, and the communities to which inmates return.

In 2013 the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) adopted the Policy to Address the Sexual Abuse of Inmates In DCS facilities. This was a historic and important first step towards ending prisoner rape in South Africa, but little progress has been made on its implementation: much work lies ahead to ensure that inmates benefit from the policy. But it is possible. The majority of sexual abuses can be prevented.

With greater awareness, we can all play a role in this, and in supporting survivors of this violence. These stories are the first of their kind in South Africa, and underscore the urgent need for action.

Vincent: I Have A Purpose

Vincent was raped by two gang members in an overcrowded cell in a Western Cape remand detention facility. This was his very first sexual experience. Vincent asked for help from nurses, wardens, priests, social workers, and even a magistrate who all rejected him and told him to expect this treatment in prison. He only received medical attention three years after he was raped when he was sentenced, and learned he was HIV-positive. Vincent calls on the Department of Correctional Services to stop this from happening to others, and encourages survivors to speak up. Vincent feels stronger than before, and says “I know I have a purpose in this life”.

Francois: I’m A Survivor

Francois was violently raped twice in an Eastern Cape correctional centre, once at knife-point, and another on Valentine’s Day. He reported the rapes to the warders, but never received counseling or support. In despair, Francois attempted suicide. After being released, he sued the Department of Correctional Services, and after 10 years he accepted a settlement offer based on the promise that they would take action to stop inmates from being raped. When nothing changed, Francois decided to tell his story. Francois encourages other survivors to seek help and says “I know I can make it because I’m a survivor”.

Thabo: My Story, 21 Years Old

Thabo went to prison when he was just 21 years old and was repeatedly raped during the decade he spent behind bars. Thabo attempted suicide but was not successful, unlike three other inmates he knew who were raped then took their own lives. Experiencing serious trauma and shame, Thabo struggles to interact with people. He says he came back from prison with a lesson and an illness (HIV). The biggest weight he has carried is that nobody in his family knows what happened to him. He urges youth to stay away from crime so that “unlike me, you can reach your dreams”.

“The [department] committed itself to reduce the level of overcrowding by at least 2% per annum in order to comply with the constitutional requirement to detain inmates under humane conditions.”

Ndebele said correctional services had managed to reduce overcrowding in prisons from 38% in 2007/08, “to 28% as on 30 July [this year]”.


No one has escaped from South Africa’s most secure prison, C-Max in Kokstad, an eerie world of solid barriers, security cameras and handcuffed prisoners in single cells.


The corridors are deadly quiet, apart from the footsteps of warders and the occasional sound of a prisoner talking, moaning or even grumbling in his cell.

In this eerie silence, South Africa’s own Houdini – serial escape artist Ananias Mathe – got to work.

Using pieces of metal taken from his cell door, he chipped away at the wall. Before the guards did their nightly inspection, he used a home-made paste to cover up his handiwork. It is a similar colour to the off-white paint, so the guards did not notice.

Day after day, Mathe, 38, chipped away at the wall, trying to make a hole.

This continued until, one day, a guard noticed what he was up to. Mathe was immediately moved to the cell next door, and his brazen bid for freedom – in the form of a 33cm cut in the wall – was brought to an abrupt end.

But even if Mathe had escaped from his cell, he would have found himself inside that quiet corridor, and into the waiting arms of warders, who would have picked him up on one of the hundreds of CCTV cameras installed across the prison.

This is the reality of the eBongweni C-Max Prison in Kokstad. There is, quite simply, no getting out.

Even if Mathe had slipped past those guards and cameras undetected, he would have been confronted with about a dozen electronic gates and doors that are opened and closed from a central command centre in the bowels of the building.

Had he managed to get through and outside the building itself, he would have had to sneak past other guards and over three barbed wire fences.

Then, and only then, would he have caught a first glimpse of freedom – but he would still have had to make his way out of the guarded and fenced prison ground itself before truly tasting freedom.

The Sunday Times was taken on a tour of the “super-maximum security” prison, which is home to 1203 of South Africa’s most dangerous and violent prisoners.

The prison, officials said this week, was so escape-proof that Mathe’s breakout bid in September 2013 was the only attempt in the facility’s 13-year history.

“eBongweni is the symbol of no escape – not only in KwaZulu-Natal but across the country,” said regional commissioner Mnikelwa Nxele.

The C-Max in Kokstad – which was built in 2002 at a cost of R450-million – is home not only to South Africa’s most violent criminals, but also those considered too problematic to be at other correctional centres.

“Some of the offenders are here simply because of the violent nature and seriousness of their crimes. But some are brought here because they have shown behavioural problems,” said Nxele.

Mathe was one of those, having escaped from two maximum security prisons in the past.

From the outside, the red face-brick prison looks like any other jail.

It has typically high walls, three layers of fencing and a raft of CCTV cameras ensuring that every inch of the perimeter is covered at all times.

Inside, it is completely different.

The cement corridors are dull and lifeless. Every step and word echoes off the plain white walls. The clanging of the remote-controlled gates and shutters reverberates as one moves through the various sections. And it is cold. Extractor fans ensure that the temperature is never above the low 20s.

Inmates stay in single cells, never getting a look at the others because all the doors face the same direction. Each cell has a stainless steel basin and toilet, a thin mattress on a cement block, and a desk.

The walls are solid concrete, and the door is solid steel with a shoebox-size slot that food gets passed through.

Everything that Mathe and the other inmates see for 23 hours of their day is through this small slot.

There is no TV, no communal lounge, dining room or recreational area. Everything the prisoners do, they do alone. And when they do leave their cells – never for more than one hour a day – they are handcuffed and there is a warder right alongside them.

As we walked into the cell block Mathe stays in, which is made up of two banks of five cells on top of each other, prisoners immediately stuck their heads out of the slots in their doors to see what was going on. Prisoners on the upper level, who could not see the activity on the lower level, shouted out, trying to find out what was happening.

Nxele said: “Across the country, there is nothing else like this. It was designed with stringent security in mind, knowing that this is our centre of last resort.

“You cannot allow a situation where somebody who has raped and killed 55 women is seen to be enjoying prison luxuries. There is nothing like that here, OK?”

No prisoner ever goes from C-Max straight back into society. They go to other prisons first.

“Nobody wants to be here. It’s not a nice place to be.”

Who’s who behind the bars in C-Max

Ebongweni C-Max Prison is 5km outside Kokstad, a small town on the border of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. It is perched on a hill, clearly visible as you drive along the road towards Matatiele.

A total of 1203 of South Africa’s most hardened criminals – guarded by 322 “discipline members” – are jailed here under three categories:

Phase 1: Most hardened/ hardcore criminals. They are kept under strict guard and have no interaction with other prisoners.
Phase 2: The rules are still strict, but these prisoners are allowed greater interaction with other inmates.
Phase 3:Prisoners begin to receive education on how to engage with other prisoners; after this stage, they will be transferred to other prisons.
Current and former inmates at C-Max in Kokstad are:

Thozamile Taki:the “Sugarcane Murderer”, convicted in 2010 of 13 killings. He got a life sentence for each of the murders, as well as 208 years for robbery, and was ordered to serve them at C-Max Kokstad;

Sibusiso “Tilili” Mzimela: a well-known gangster from Umlazi, Durban. A modern-day Houdini, Mzimela has escaped from police and prison custody nine times. He was sentenced to 89 years in prison in 2011, and was sent to C-Max because of his history of breakouts;

Henry Okah: a Nigerian national, Okah was sentenced to 24 years in prison in January 2013 on 13 counts of terrorism, including engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activities, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device. It related to two bombings in Abuja, Nigeria, in early 2010. He was arrested in South Africa in October that year, at which time he also made threats against the South African government – for which he was sentenced to 13 years;

Sandile Goniwe: he was given a 25-year sentence after a 2008 robbery in Butterworth in the Eastern Cape. One security guard was killed and 20 firearms were stolen in the robbery;

Mongezi Samuel Jingxela: formerly of Meadowlands, Soweto, he received multiple life sentences for a string of rapes, assaults, robberies and kidnappings in the early 2000s. Jingxela ultimately faced 261 charges – including 71 of rape, 64 of kidnapping, 62 of aggravated robbery and 61 of assault – and was convicted on 229 of these in December 2007; and

Christoff Becker: one of the “Waterkloof Four”, Becker was sent to C-Max after a video of him and fellow inmate Frikkie du Preez drinking alcohol and partying in their cell at Kgosi Mampuru II Prison in Pretoria surfaced just after they were released on parole. As a result, their parole was cancelled and they were ordered back behind bars in Pretoria. But Becker was then caught with a cellphone and transferred to Kokstad in April last year. He has since been released on parole again. The “Waterkloof Four” were convicted of the 2001 murder of a homeless man in Waterkloof, Pretoria.

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