Lindela security firm under scrutiny after 69 migrants flee

'They walked out of the facility while guards stood by'

Lindela repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp in the West Rand.
Lindela repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp in the West Rand.

Residents who live near the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp, on the West Rand, where 69 undocumented foreigners escaped, have told of how some of them casually walked out of the facility while guards stood by.

The fallout over the mass escape on March 17 resulted in the security company responsible for guarding the facility being removed by home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Yesterday, guards from the new security company which took over access control at the facility since last week Wednesday were seen walking about armed, while about four of them were manning the gate. 

At the time of the escape, the facility was holding 1,521 undocumented foreign nationals who were awaiting deportation. 

A worker who witnessed the escape said he saw a group of them casually walking out of the facility but did not take them seriously as they were chatting among themselves.

“There were about 20 of them. I was walking on the street, and they walked past me. They didn’t seem as if they were in a hurry, and they weren’t carrying anything with them. I didn’t think much of it until I heard later that they were part of inmates who escaped. They didn’t look like people who have just escaped from detention. The security guards just stood by and watched.  They looked defeated,” said the man. 

Yesterday, Motsoaledi said there was another attempted escape a day after and one of the migrants was shot and wounded. "The security managed to rearrest the group," said the minister.

Speaking to SABC at the weekend, Motsoaledi said he had seen a video of the escape and said the immigrants looked casual. He also said his department was not satisfied with the security company's responses when they queried about the incidents.

Motsoaledi said the department was reviewing the contract with the security company whose contract with the department is valid for five years from February 2022. 

“The reason to instruct that the company be immediately removed is because we are still investigating the company, the two incidents and studying the contract with aim to terminate their contract to stop this nonsense [of escapes]," said Motsoaledi yesterday.

He said he was still awaiting to be briefed about the shooting incident but said one person was shot and two guards were arrested.

"I am not sure if there is any other arrests because the matter is now under the police and I have not received any update,” said Motsoaledi. 

Motsoaledi told Sowetan that the department is also considering terminating their contract with EnviroMongz the facility management company.  

The incidents have brought into sharp focus on security breaches at Lindela.

Justin Crause, who has been a resident in the area for 20 years, said this was the second time an escape has happened at the centre.  “The last time something like this happened was way back in 2011. I didn't see them escape but I heard they ran through the veld not far from where I live.” said Crause.  

Another resident said she did not hear about the incident until the following day on the WhatsApp group.

“I have been living here for almost 18 years and I have never seen or heard anything like this. I mean you hear about the shootings in the area but of 69 people escaping from Lindela is not something you hear every day,” said the resident.

The countries of origin of those who escaped were Tanzania (38), Malawi (14), Zimbabwe (5), Mozambique (3), Lesotho (2), Burundi (3), Democratic Republic of Congo (3), and Nigeria (1).

Gauteng police spokesperson Lt-Col Mavela Masondo said the shooting incident does not fall within their jurisdiction and the department of home affairs was handling the matter.

Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.