Parole office on pavement
Correctional Services Department allegedly failed to pay rent for five years.
JOHANNESBURG parole officers are locked out of their office and forced to work on the pavement after the Correctional Services Department allegedly failed to pay rent for five years.
The department owes the National Union of Mineworkers Properties (Numprop) R1.3-million in rent for the use of the union's buildings in Frederick Street in the CBD, according to the union's attorney.
The department also owes a further R700,000 in rent for two additional floors that, it is claimed, it occupied illegally in the same building.
Numprop is the property arm of NUM.
Now the parole officers have been reduced to a single desk "open-air office" with no chairs for the past three weeks.
All their files, including records of parolees, are locked inside.
Embarrassed parolees, up to 200 a day, are forced to register in full view of the public - something that should be done privately, one of the parole officers said.
The 110 officers at this office have since been dispatched to work from prison.
"This is embarrassing not only for the parolees but for us as well. Members of the public even mistake our desk for the SA Revenue Services," one officer said.
They said the locked records could result in some ex-convicts, who had violated their parole conditions, going unpunished.
"There is already a case of a former prisoner who has threatened to kill his family, but we can't record the incident because his files are locked inside," said another officer.
Tsiamo Vilakazi, the attorney for Numprop, said the matter has been referred to the high court in an attempt to force the department to pay.
Vilakazi said in 2007 the union entered into a lease agreement with the department of public works (DPW) on behalf of correctional services. At the time, the monthly rental for the two floors was R11146 and has since risen to R16 319.
"We've had numerous meetings with public works and the state attorney but they still fail to pay. In July this year we got a court order to terminate our services if they didn't pay by August 2. They failed again," said Vilakazi.
Gauteng Correctional Services spokesman Ofentse Morwane said the lockout began on August 3.
"DPW is the agency that procures offices for all state departments and it was the case with that building. The contract was signed between the landlord and DPW on our behalf for three floors. The regional commissioner is attending to the matter and we are hopeful it shall be resolved before the end of next week (this week)."
DPW spokesman Thami Mchunu promised to comment today. - firstname.lastname@example.org