- At least 16 prisoners awaiting trial at Kroonstad Medium B prison in Free State are on a hunger strike, South Africa's Department of Correctional Services has confirmed.
"Sixteen awaiting trial detainees who have not been sentenced (are on a hunger strike because) they claim the regional court has not been processing their cases on time," the department's spokesperson Puleng Mokhoane told 'Sapa', saying, "They have to wait and wait and wait."
She said "there is so much backlog for awaiting trial prisoners." She said one of the striking prisoners had been awaiting trial for three or four years.
Mokhoane said "it is very rare and surprising" that only a fraction of close to 450 awaiting trial have decided to go on strike.
Separated into single cells, the striking prisoners continue to be given food by prison authorities. Mokhoane said food remains with them for longer period so that they can when they want.
None of the prisoners has so far broken the battle against hunger, despite several attempts by the prison commissioner and nurses informing them about the implications of their action.
They were asked to write their concerns so that they could be forwared to the regional court.
Besides, the President of South Africa's Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights, Miles Bhudu, reported that the striking prisoners also refused to attend court proceedings.
Mr Bhudu gave "no rule of law" at the Kroonstad Regional Court as the main reason responsible for the strike. He said prisoners were also concerned about their "negligent" legal representation.
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