September 19, 2002

State Prisons to Be Privatized?

As the Lesotho government is busy privatizing state-owned enterprises, rumours are rife that government is also considering privatizing prisons around the country.

Sources inside the Department of Prisons told Mopheme - The Survivor that plans were at an advanced stage to privatize the over-populated government prisons in the ten districts of Lesotho. "However, government is dealing with this matter very secretly as some cabinet ministers are reportedly interested in buying some of the prisons," said the source who refused to be named.

The Minister allegedly reported to be interested in buying one of the prisons, Thomas Thabane strongly denied the rumours saying: "that is utterly nonsense. I know nothing about that. How can I buy a prison? Where do I get that kind of money". Thabane pointed that the government was only considering building a larger and more modern prison to accommodate the growing number of prisoners and to relief the already congested prisons in the country. "I know nothing about the privatization of prisons. Maybe you should talk to the Minister of Justice about this," Thabane added.

Efforts to get the side of the Minister of Justice, Refiloe Masemene proved fruitless, as he was constantly unavailable.

When called for comment, the office of the Director of Prisons refused to comment and referred the reporter to the Minister of Justice.

The Information Officer of the Privatization Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Makalo Ntšasa said: "This is not the first time that we hear about this. But I can tell you that prisons are not on the list of state-owned enterprises that are up for privatization. We as the privatization Unit have never dealt with any privatization of prisons," he said.

Talk about about the privatization of prisons in Lesotho follows numerous round visits taken by local and international organizations reviewing the human rights situation and health and environment conditions at the Lesotho prisons which have been reported on a number of cases as being below the required international standards and sometimes even appalling. (MOPHEME/THE SURVIVOR)

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