Commencing on Monday, November 20, prisoners throughout South Africa have declared they would go on a countrywide hunger strike over recent court rulings that allow them to utilize computers while imprisoned, as well as other issues that they believe have an adverse effect on their lives.
Arguments about prisoners’ computer rights and use in their cells were considered by the Supreme Court of Appeal in September. The right of prisoners to use computers during their confinement was upheld by the courts. On November 8, the SCA concluded that the existing regulations on computer usage in jails and prisons infringed upon the constitutional rights of the incarcerated population.
The existing regulation restricts or outright forbids convicts who have enrolled to study from using computers. However, judges have determined in two earlier cases that this is unjust discrimination.
These were appealed by National Commissioner Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale and Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola, who were directed to end the policy and reimburse the legal fees of an inmate who had been refused a laptop for academic purposes in a 2018 court case.
As reported by The Star, the Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), representing one of the affected prisoners, Mbalenhle Sydney Ntuli, secured an order in the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, in September 2019 that he is entitled to use his personal computer, without a modem, in his single cell as long as he remains a registered student.