Maputo — The South African authorities are investigating claims made by the Johannesburg "Sunday Times" newspaper that South African women prisoners, arrested in Mozambique for drugs offences, are being sexually abused by prison guards.
15 South African women are among the drug "mules" arrested at Maputo International Airport and found to be carrying cocaine in their luggage or in their stomachs. The drugs originated mostly in Brazil, but sometimes the women had begun their journeys in India.
The most recent cases were in the last week of February when two South Africans travelling from Brazil were arrested at the airport - one with 400 grams of cocaine in her luggage and the other with 59 ampules of the drug in her stomach.
The "Sunday Times" reported that prison guards had demanded sex from some of the jailed women in exchange for food and toiletries. The paper claimed that one of the women died in 2012 after she had been denied adequate medical treatment.
It said that conditions in the prison were inhuman with the women surviving on a diet of "rotten beans and fish".
A spokesperson for the South African Department of International Relations, Nelson Kgwete, said on Monday that the government "views these allegations in a serious light" and that "the matter will be brought to the attention of the Mozambican authorities for further investigation".
He added "Officials from the South African High Commission in Maputo make regular visits to prisons in Mozambique to monitor the conditions of South African inmates. During the last visit, the prisoners complained about general prison conditions such as poor medical treatment and food."
"Our information is that these conditions apply to all prisoners and are not exclusive to South African prisoners", he added.
The High Commission "will monitor the progress of the envisaged investigation until the matter is brought to its logical conclusion," Kgwete promised.