Prison Guards at the Private Service of the Interior Minister

The Angolan minister of Home Affairs, Ângelo Tavares de Barros Veiga, has been keeping 15 prison guards on his private service, distributed among three of his homes.

An investigation by Maka Angola has discovered that the guards belong to Viana Prison in Luanda. The prison has about 105 permanent guards, of which less than 80 are used daily on a rotational basis.

Viana Prison houses more than 3.500 inmates, but has a capacity for only 1.700.

On June 25, 15 prisoners escaped from Viana Prison with relative ease. Although this event exposed the security flaws of the main jail in the country, senior police officials have continued to poach guards from Viana Prison as free labor for their private homes. The Secretary of State for Correctional Services, José Bamóquina Zau, continues to retain five prison guards on his private service. Meanwhile, the National Director of Correctional Services, Commissioner Domingos Ferreira Andrade, keeps six prison guards for his private security.

As a member of government, the minister has a security detail provided by the Protection Unit for Protocolled Individuals (Protecção de Individualidades Protocolares, UPIP). As Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Tavares can arbitrarily make use of one or two more police officers in order to enhance his personal safety. But no law or regulation allows the minister or other officials to dispose of prison guards for private service.

The use of Viana Prison as a free labor recruiment ground for the private use by senior officers of the National Police is an old and common practice.

In addition to the use of prison guards, it is well known that high-ranking government officials have been using prisoners to work on their farms and private beach houses, and to provide other private services. In 1999, while Maka Angola’s director was detained in Viana Prison for criticizing the president, he witnessed cases of prisioners who were released in the evenings to commit crimes, and would return at dawn. The jail served as their safe haven.

After more than a decade, it is obvious that the various ministerial changes, training programs, and government directives have produced little or no changes in the culture of impunity and abuse of power in Viana Prison.

The recent video showing an episode of police brutality at Luanda’s Central District prison facility, in which prison guards as well as National Police officers and firefighters partipicate in a mass beating of prisoners, has prompted Angola Maka to undertake the challenge of researching on the prison system in Angola.