The head of South Africa’s corrections department promised an immediate investigation Monday after photos purportedly showing strippers dancing with inmates at a Johannesburg prison circulated online.
James Smalberger, the acting national commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, also condemned the alleged incident, saying Monday it was a major security breach and violation of prison protocols.
“The department condemns this incident with the contempt it deserves, and right at the outset, we want to make it abundantly clear that we will leave no stone unturned to deal with this matter,” Smalberger said in a news conference.
The incident allegedly occurred at the Johannesburg Medium B Correctional Centre, commonly known as Sun City. The prison is notorious for housing some of South Africa’s most violent criminals.
“The pictures taken were of an event hosted in line with June Youth Month celebrations on the 21st of June,” Smalberger said.
The annual Youth Month pays tribute to the students killed in the 1976 anti-apartheid Soweto uprising. The uprising began after police killed a 12-year-old student who was peacefully protesting the mandated use of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in schools. It is estimated that 175 people were killed in the clashes that ensued.
The corrections department approved the Youth Month celebration, Smalberger said, “but the form of entertainment as depicted on social media was not approved and not in line with Correctional Services policies and procedures.”
Corrections officials said they launched an investigation after being alerted to the images circulating on social media.
So far, 13 officials have been served letters of contemplation of suspension.
“According to our policies, management should have gone in and stopped those ladies,” department spokesman Gibson Ngabakho said in an interview with South African Power FM Radio.
“We want to apologize to the citizens of South Africa for this incident, which, indeed, is very disturbing,” Smalberger said.