The Congress of the People (Cope) on Thursday urged the department of correctional services to urgently implement the use of cellphone jammers in South African prisons.
Local media has reported that Nigerian televangelist Pastor Timothy Omotoso, who is detained at St Albans prison in Port Elizabeth on charges of rape, was allowed to preach via video conferencing from his single cell, using his cellphone to address his congregants around the country.
The department has launched an investigation into allegations of preferential treatment for Omotoso.
A recent raid of the Johannesburg Central Prison, covered first hand by African News Agency in December, revealed a number of cellphones inside prison cells among a host of contraband including dangerous weapons and drugs.
Cope national spokesperson Dennis Bloem said the party had been reliably informed that having a cellphone in prison was a lucrative business as inmates could freely communicate with the outside world.
Having access to cellphones allowed criminal syndicates and drug dealers to carry out illegal activities from within prison cells.
“The huge numbers of cellphones that are found in our prisons is just the tip of an iceberg, there’s no doubt that cellphones can be found in all prisons,” he said.
“We can’t understand why it is so difficult for the department of correctional services to install this [jamming] technology.
“The access of cellphones by prisoners has the grave potential of criminals using them to arrange hits on witnesses, victims, community and even law enforcement officers and judicial officers. It is imperative that cellphones are removed or network blocked for the greater good of society.”
Bloem said Cope would request an urgent meeting with Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha over the issue.
During the 2016 state of the nation address by the president, a signal jammer was activated by the department of state security in Parliament, supposedly for security reasons, making it impossible for the media to report from the national assembly as cellphone and internet signals had been blocked.
– African News Agency (ANA)