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Inmates’ Right to Adequate Nutrition in South Africa: Is the Enforcement of this Right Constitutional?

Thembinkosi W Maseko


The South African Constitution entrenches, among other socio-economic rights, inmates’ right to adequate nutrition. Measures aimed at enforcing this right include the Regulations and the court enforcement of inmates’ right to traditional food in the case of Huang v the Head of Grootvlei prison. While these measures are steps in the right direction, they do not fully comply with constitutional imperatives. The Regulation’s restriction of access to cultural or religious food to pregnant or lactating remand detainees is contrary to section 9 (3) of the Constitution which prohibits unfair discrimination by the state. This is the case because, technically, this regulation has the effect of excluding even those pregnant or lactating inmates who had access to either a cultural or a religious food as remand detainees. Further, the court’s failure to determine whether the inmates’ claim to their traditional food was based on a sincere cultural belief which could be objectively supported in the case of Huang v the Head of Grootvlei prison is unconstitutional.

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