Africa

South Africa's Pollsmoor prisoners evacuated over rat infestation

Prisoners walk in a corridor at the Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, near painted murals of parrots, on March 18, 2011 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Overcrowding and blocked drains were blamed for rat urine getting too close to prisoners

A South African prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated is being evacuated after two people died from a disease caused by exposure to rat urine.

Over 4,000 inmates are in the process of being moved from Pollsmoor to nearby prisons to avoid more infections.

The two inmates of the Cape Town prison died in August, reports SABC News.

The leptospirosis bacteria is spread from urine from rats or dogs and symptoms include fever and jaundice.

An inspection by the the National Institute For Communicable Diseases showed overcrowding and blocked drains meant inmates were exposed to infected rat urine.

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union expressed their concern on Sunday that the prison appeared to be at 300% capacity.

It is extremely rare for a South African prison to be evacuated, reports the BBC's Milton Nkosi from Johannesburg.

Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in 1982, after spending 18 years on Robben Island.

The leader of the fight against white minority rule in South Africa spent six years in Pollsmoor, before he was eventually freed in 1990, going on to become the country's first black president in 1994.

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