Wits Justice Project

DCS launch the Nelson Mandela Rules, but more awareness needed

By Azarrah Karrim and Janessa Andiorio 24 July 2018
Caption
Photo: A student looks at cutlery and plates in the replica of Nelson Mandela's Robben Island Prison Cell during its launch at Spine Road High School in Cape Town, South Africa, 26 September 2016. Former South African president and Nobel Peace laureate Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in a cell of these exact proportions for 27 years. This mobile replica will make its way around the country to enable young people who have never been to the Robben Island Museum to get a personal perspective of the history that unfolded on Robben Island and South Africa. Photo: EPA/NIC BOTHMA

In celebration of Former President Nelson Mandela’s centenary, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), in partnership with the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice launched the Nelson Mandela Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners at Drakenstein Correctional Centre (previously Victor Verster Prison) on Tuesday.

The Nelson Mandela Rules deal with the humane treatment of prisoners – including prison conditions, transportation and prisoner health.

The Nelson Mandela Rules, also known as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, were adopted by the United Nation General Assembly in 1955.

They were subsequently revised in 2015 and renamed the Nelson Mandela Rules “to accommodate recent advances in correctional services and best practices,” says spokesperson for DCS, Singabakho Nxumalo.

Nxumalo adds: “The rules are not a legally binding international agreement, and are not intended to describe in detail a model system of penal institutions. They seek only to set out what is generally accepted as being good principles and practice in the treatment of prisoners and prison management.”

However, investigations by the Wits Justice Project which have uncovered human rights abuses inside South African prisons reveal that the Mandela Rules seem to have been ignored since their adoption. DM

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South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government - mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

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