Torture: the shame of our nation








“We were forced to run naked down the corridor through a tunnel of warders who hit us while we were running and sprayed us with water. They were swearing and screaming: ‘Today you’re going to die!’ Then they forced us to lie on the wet floor in a long human chain – about 70 prisoners from my section. Each inmate had their nose in the arse of the person in front of them. If you turned to look up, they kicked you in the face with an army boot. There were also female warders who walked over us, kicked us in our genitals and mocked us about our private parts. And there were dogs.”

Raped inmate sues prison service,

The above excerpt is from a story our senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely, wrote in March 2012. The horrifying account of the 2005 mass beatings at St Albans prison compelled us to continue to cover the story, and to work with Egon Oswald, the lawyer representing the tortured inmates, in bringing their case to court. The case is being heard in a Port Elizabeth high court, and Carolyn has continued to report on it, keeping the issue in the public eye. Links to her series of articles are included below (be warned of graphic content):
St Albans prison scandal: SA ignores UNHRC and risks international embarrassment by Carolyn Raphaely, Daily Maverick, 1 June 2014
St Albans: Tales of torture and intimidation continue, Carolyn Raphaely, Daily Maverick, 17 June 2014
The measure of a nation: St Albans, the shame of South Africa’s prisons by Carolyn Raphaely, Daily Maverick, 30 May 2014

It is very distressing that in March this year there was an almost identical incident of alleged mass beatings, in the very same prison. Carolyn wrote about it, the links (to the graphic stories) below:
Inmates ‘beaten, shocked, tortured’ by Carolyn Raphaely, The Star 13 March 2014
St Albans Prison: enter the era of SA’s torture prosecutions? by Carolyn Raphaely, Daily Maverick 2 April 2014









“Inmate Nceba Siko, still limping a week after being shocked twice on his testicles by a woman warder using a hand-held device, said that he and his cellmates were never told what EST members were searching for: “They were just shouting down, down, down. The whole cell was forced to lie naked on the floor with their face in the other inmate’s anus. While they were lying down, the members were standing on their backs and beating them with batons and shocking them with their shields….”

“I don’t know how long I lay there (on the cement outside the cell) with my face in that guy’s anus. They finished with us after 2am,” added a bruised and battered Jeandre Nel. “Some of those guys were under the influence of alcohol. They were shouting that we are dogs. One stamped on me and twisted his boot into my ribs. He said, ‘I’ll squash you like a bug, like a cockroach.’ In the end, they found nothing in our cell.”
St Albans Prison: enter the era of SA’s torture prosecutions?

The Wits Justice Project will continue to work to report on human rights violations and the abuse of force, and it will continue to work on torture prevention in the country. We will be hosting a symposium in August to look at how the new torture prevention bill should be implemented. To read more of our work, please go to
If you would like to make a donation please go to:

We would be unable to continue our work without the generous donations from our funders: the Raith Foundation, Open Society Foundation for South Africa, Canon Collins Educational and Legal Assistance Trust, the Joffe Charitable Trust and the Claude Leon Foundation


About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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