Johannesburg - The Mozambican prison services have denied a story carried by the Sunday Times that South African woman prisoners, jailed in Mozambique for drug trafficking, have been used by prison officials as “sex slaves”.
On Wednesday, Samo Paulo Goncalves, National Prison Service head of operations, said neither the prisoners nor the SA High Commission, which had made consular visits to the women, had complained of any such abuses.
The Sunday Times claimed guards had demanded sex in exchange for food and toiletries.
The paper reported that one of the women died in 2012 after being denied adequate medical treatment.
Goncalves said there were 14 South African women in Mozambican jails.
They were all drug mules.
Convicted prisoners serve at the Ndlavela Women’s Prison in southern Matola, while those awaiting trial are held in the women’s section of Maputo’s Civil Prison.
Goncalves said there was no discrimination between foreigners and Mozambicans. “All receive the same treatment, have the same rights,” he said.
The only discrimination was on gender grounds. Because there are fewer women, the prisoners in women’s jails have more space and better food. They eat at least twice a day.
Furthermore, all the guards and other full-time staff at Ndlavela are women. Male employees only enter the prison for specific, specialist tasks.
If the prison service did receive complaints, “we are willing to investigate and any guards involved can be certain they’ll be expelled, charged and brought to trial”, he said.
Goncalves confirmed that one of the prisoners, Andiswa Maucotywa, 26, had died of Aids in 2011. He said she had been receiving ARV treatment in South Africa, but did not tell the Mozambican authorities this when she was arrested.
When she fell ill in prison, she was diagnosed as HIV-positive and put back on ARVs. Her family were found and they came to visit her in prison.
The National Prison Service responded to the press reports case by case, accusing the Sunday Times of publishing falsehoods or not understanding the Mozambican legal system.
The claim that Adelaide Nxele had been under house arrest was untrue, because there is no such penalty in Mozambique. The service said she was released on bail, pending appeal and is awaiting the decision of the Appeals Court.
South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation said on Monday it took the newspaper’s allegations seriously and its High Commission in Maputo had begun investigations.