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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

J. Other Prisons and Places of Detention

All the witnesses who testified before the Commission were, at various times, and for various periods, held in other prisons and places of detention. We heard evidence in relation, inter alia to conditions in the Angola Central Prison (also known as Nova Stella Sao), the conditions in a building known as the Revolutionary Council in Lusaka, Nonkala Prison Camp in Angola, Mazimba Prison Camp in Tanzania and the Ugandan Prison Camp.

We do not propose to dwell in any detail upon conditions in these prisons. By way of general observation, however, it can be categorically stated that while conditions were undoubtedly better than in Quatro, in no single instance can conditions be described as remotely acceptable. Certain aspects of the conditions of detention in these various centres require elaboration.

There appeared to be a curious and ill-defined relationship between the ANC Security Department and the Angolan prison authorities. The Angolan Government probably recognised the ANC's special status arising out of the ANC's adherence to the Geneva Convention and the Protocols thereto. From the accounts which we received, it appeared that the ANC security department had free access to persons held in the prison and such persons were in fact ANC prisoners. What was particularly disturbing, however, was the fact that detainees were apparently taken from the Angolan Central Prison by ANC security officials, brutally interrogated and then returned to the prison. It appears that the Angolan authorities did not bear any responsibility for the welfare of such persons. Indeed, there was evidence to suggest that Angolan security guards participated in the assault on detainees. Those detainees who were held in Angola Central Prison complained bitterly about the conditions. In particular, the persistent complaint was of a lack of food and of sub-standard food. We were informed that prisoners frequently went without food altogether.

Quatro was evacuated in December 1988 in terms of the New York Accord which stipulated that the ANC had to leave Angola with its soldiers, prisoners and equipment by 31 March 1989. Close to 90 detainees were taken from Quatro to Nonkala, a warehouse in Luanda. This was to be a temporary prison. The evidence established that the evacuation from Quatro was particularly unpleasant. We were told prisoners were piled into trucks and some were handcuffed to other prisoners. Newcomers were apparently handcuffed to those who had spent time in Quatro. This was done as a precaution to prevent the newcomers from escaping since they were in better physical condition and more likely to attempt to escape than other prisoners. One of the detainees who testified before us told us that he fainted on the way to Nonkala, as a result of the heat in the truck.

From Nonkala, some prisoners were taken to Uganda and others to Dakawa in Tanzania. Conditions in the Ugandan Prison, while better than Quatro, still left much to be desired. The evidence established acts of gratuitous and random violence perpetrated on the detainees by the camp guards, but not with the same frequency that occurred at Quatro. Several witnesses told the Commission of a savage assault inflicted by the guards on Brendon Khotso, one of the group of 32, who did not testify before the commission. Mr Khotso's camp name was "Porco", meaning "pig". The background to this assault concerned a practice which many detainees found humiliating, in terms of which they were required to heat the bathwater for the camp commanders and thereafter to throw the dirty water out. This practice was considered unacceptable by the detainees and was taken up with ANC officials. On the day in question, a young commander, estimated to be no more than 16 years of age, instructed Mr Khotso to fetch water for hirn. Mr Khotso refused to do so and was struck by the young commander. It is possible that Mr Khotso hit back in anger. Thereafter, Mr Khotso was fetched from his cell by a group of commanders, tied to a tree and savagely beaten. While in an unconscious state he was thrown into a swamp. Two other prisoners who were then in a weakened state as a result of being on hunger strike were told to fetch Mr Khotso from the swamp as a form of punishment. Apart from the savageness of this assault, Mr Khotso was apparently partially crippled as a result of a previous assault by camp guards.

One of the noteworthy features of the period of detention in Uganda, was attempts by certain ANC officials to improve conditions Several witnesses specifically singled out the efforts of Tenjiwe Mthintso, the ANC's Chief Representative in Uganda. She apparently displayer a genuine capacity to listen to complaints and as a result of her efforts conditions improved. We were informed that for the first time, detainees were able to relate their complaints without the guards being present.

As a result of their plight certain prisoners embarked on a hunger strike in Uganda. Their demands included to be tried or released, compliance by the ANC with the Geneva Convention and classification as political offenders. Promises of a trial temporarily ended the hunger strike. Those promises were not, however, fulfilled In January 1991 four prisoners embarked upon another hunger strike. One of them continued for 35 days, when he was removed in an unconscious state to a hospital in Kampala.

Dakawa was more of a resettlement village than a prison, although the inhabitants were not free to come and go as they pleased. It seems that most of those sent to Dakawa were involved in the mutiny of 1984. Conditions in Sagawa were poor. The inhabitants lived in tents. A small group of the Dakawa inhabitants managed to escape and make their way to Dar es Salaam where they sought protection as refugees from the United Nations. This group ultimately made its way back to South Africa in April 1990 after intervention by the South African Department of Foreign Affairs

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.