09/04/2006 22:53 - (SA) - Tisha Steyn , Die Burger
George - Eight South African women have been locked up in the dungeons of a Mauritius prison for the past eight weeks.
Marius Mey, the fiance of 27-year-old Michelle Roux, one of the women, said: "They have been held in the dungeons for the past eight weeks.
"They don't have beds or linen, they aren't allowed to shower and they have been wearing the same clothes. They have to use a chamber pot for a toilet.
"They are released one at a time to buy food at the prison shop - biscuits and chips," he said.
Die Burger reported recently that the South African women had gone on a hunger strike in protest against the inhumane conditions under which they were being held while the South African government looked on, doing nothing.
Most of the eight women were being held on drug charges after drugs apparently had been planted on them with or without their knowledge, but without their consent.
"They were moved to the dungeons after seven women Mauritian prisoners assaulted Michelle," said Mey.
There are about 28 South Africans in Mauritian jails, all of them allegedly for smuggling drugs.
Roux delivered a suitcase - in which 800g of heroin was hidden without her knowledge - on behalf of a friend to someone in Mauritius in June 2003.
She was arrested at the airport in Mauritius.
As a result of her testimony, the so-called friend and a Mauritian drug lord were arrested.
Roux has been kept in custody and still is awaiting trial.
Mey said: "The drug lord threatened Michelle, saying she must withdraw charges, but she refused.
"I have paid thousands of rands for attorneys, air tickets and money into an account for Michelle.
"I have also lost a farm and a house, and I am working 17 hours a day to cover the costs.
'Govt doesn't give a damn'
"The last time South African embassy staff visited these women was in December last year. They don't give a damn about them. The same applies to the Mauritian government.
"Only the British embassy tries to help the South Africans.
"Until recently, I sent my loved one money and e-mails via a person at the British embassy.
"But the authorities have put a stop to that, saying 'the South Africans are enjoying too many favours'," said Mey.
The mother of one of the South Africans being held in Mauritius, who is there at present trying to get bail for him, was in tears on Sunday when speaking to Die Burger.
Her son was forced to swallow heroin bullets in September last year.
Some have been there eight years
"Nobody gives a damn about the South Africans being held here," she said.
"I'm emotionally finished. It's a terrible thing to be in South Africa and being unable to protect your child," she said.
"Mauritius is one very sick island. Wherever I turn, I'm confronted by closed doors," she said.
Some of the South Africans have been in prison for eight years. Sixteen of them have still not been charged.
Once they are charged, it takes another 18 to 24 months for the case to go to court.
"The prison commissioner didn't allow me to deliver letters to two South Africans.
"One was Edward Aimes, who has been in prison for the past six years without once making contact with his family.
"The other is David Hart, who has been here for 2½ years, and who hasn't had any visitors.
"The commissioner didn't provide reasons for refusing me, he just said I could not visit any other South Africans."