Source: Sowetan (Photo, Mlungisi Louw)

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) calls on the government to immediately terminate the G4S contract and nationalise the Mangaung Correctional Facility. It is clear that government is not getting any value for its money, the Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) are just a ploy to socialise risks on behalf of private companies whilst allowing them companies to privatise profits.

Considering what has transpired at Mangaung Correctional Facility regarding the ‘Thabo Bester’ saga, we can say with utmost conviction that these privately operated prisons are not in any way beneficial to society. The prevailing myths that privately run institutions are efficient, competent, and cost effective for government have been shattered by the ‘Thabo Bester’ saga (and other reports of abuse of inmates) and the revelations of how much government spends in these Private-Public Partnerships (PPPs).

The Mail & Guardian reported in November 2022 that to detain, clothe and feed prisoners, the public correctional service centres receive R385 per day. In contrast, the private facilities get higher allowance for inmates, with Mangaung Prison at R435 and Kutama Senthumule at R412. This means, these partnerships are not helping the government in terms of costs, and thus create a two-tier prison system unnecessarily.

Their answers to the parliamentary committee today were not satisfactory, and a chunk of them were evasive. In the main, such evasive answering seems to be geared towards hiding the incompetence and inefficiency. But at worst, this may be geared towards concealing a web of corruption that goes beyond the Thabo Bester saga.

It is clear now that ‘Thabo Bester’ was helped by prison wardens, and that thereafter, some of these prison wardens helped to conceal the evidence. How the corpse that was burned in the cell was smuggled into the prison, the accelerant used in the burning, and the failure of some digital video recorders placed at critical corridors, all attest to one thing: Thabo Bester was helped and not by one warden, but by several of them including the negligence of others.

SAFTU is calling on the parliamentarians to recommend to the Department of Correctional Service (DCS) an immediate termination of the contract with G4S and the subsequent takeover of the facility by the government.

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