File picture: Independent Media
Kimberley – Family members of Muslim inmates at the city’s Tswelopele Correctional Centre have accused the prison of preventing their loved ones from practising their religion.

The accusations follow after family members claimed inmates had complained that they were barred from reading the Qur’an or even have religious gatherings.

“My brother said that prison officials have separated all Muslim inmates from each other in order for them not to gather. They are also not allowed to read the Qur’an or wear their kofias inside the prison. This is very sad as the inmates have written numerous letters to the management about the problem but their complaints are not being attended to,” said one family member.

Another family member said that the inmates were forced to attend Christian gatherings.

“Muslim inmates could not commemorate Ramadaan Mubarak. They are, however, forced to attend church services on Sundays or whenever the facility hosts Christian events. We do not understand why the facility would allow some inmates to freely practise their religion yet discriminate against others.”

The family members stated that the problem has existed for years.

“This problem has been going on since 2015. The inmates feel helpless, because whatever happens inside is kept secret by the department and there are so many challenges and avenues you have to go through to get your voice heard. Even after following all the necessary protocol regarding their rights to practise their religion, nothing is being done.”

The Northern Cape Department of Correctional Services has denied the allegations.

The Deputy Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services, Grace Molatedi, said that inmates were afforded a platform to voice their concerns.

“If there are complaints, there is a structure to be followed at the centre."

“Inmates have their own committee, the Prison Management Committee, where they can raise their complaints or requests, as well as the independent inspecting judge representative or through the complaints and request structure available in their unit,” she said.

Molatedi said that Muslim inmates are afforded an opportunity to practise their religion freely.

“Kofias are allowed to be worn in the facility. The policy does not provide provision for the covering of faces due to security reasons. The policy also allows inmates to perform their own religion and Muslims are allowed to read the Qur’an. Muslims are allowed to get meals at amended times during the month of Ramadaan and provision is also made for fasting,” said Molatedi.

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