No special meals for SA's inmates on Christmas Day

24 December 2019 - 07:00 By LWANDILE BHENGU
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Jail, file photo
Jail, file photo
Image: Allan Swart/123RF

As SA families prepare to pull out all the stops for the ultimate Christmas Day meal, it will be a starch, a protein and two vegetable options for the country’s 162,875 inmates.

The department of correctional services said no special meal provisions are made for prisoners during the festive season.

“There are neither special meals nor deviations allowed on the current departmental ration scales. However, the food service may acquire permission to order raw rations on approval of the head of the corrections centre to cater for special occasions such as Christmas,” said correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo.

Njabulo Ndlovu, who was wrongfully incarcerated at Westville prison for 14 years, said that during his time inside, prison staff tried to make the festive season a little special.

“I won't lie, the department tried to make it a day unlike other days, not just Christmas but throughout December they tried to make us not feel that fact that we were not with our families and loved ones during that time. For instance, they extended the lock-up time so we can spend more time together with other inmates so we don’t spend time alone thinking about our loved ones,” he said.

Ndlovu said that they also received bigger meat portions and juices on Christmas day.

Ndlovu spent his first Christmas at home in 2018, after his wrongful arrest and conviction for the gang rape of a woman was set aside. In 2005 he was sentenced to life imprisonment and spent 13 years and two months behind bars trying to prove his innocence. Last August, the Pietermaritzburg high court acquitted Ndlovu of rape and discharged him from prison after it found there was no DNA linking him to the crime.

“My first Christmas at home was very special, all my family and loved ones came to see me,” he said.

During the launch of the department’s national Safer Festive Season campaign, correctional services deputy minister Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa said they would be tightening up on prisoner movements and food items coming into the country's prisons.

“From December 2 2019 until January 10 2020, we will step up security in all our facilities with more limitations on offender movement as well as certain food and other items,” Holomisa said.

“The limitations on offender movement will come with an emphasis on more indoor activities ... to keep inmates occupied and reduce idleness. These include table tennis, chess, and other activities.”

Nxumalo said only sentenced prisoners would receive visitors on Christmas Day, as it is a public holiday.

subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now