SOWETAN | Jail security bosses all about profit

Site of the dispute between Correctional Services and G4S, Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein.
Site of the dispute between Correctional Services and G4S, Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein.
Image: Mlungisi Louw

In May last year, the Correctional Services department announced it would terminate its contract with Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts (BCC), a company that managed the Mangaung correctional centre from where murderer Thabo Bester escaped a year before. 

At the time, pressure was mounting for the department to act against BCC and G4S as it emerged that the escape was part of a wider network of entrenched mismanagement and alleged corruption by officials at the facility. 

The department said the notice to terminate followed a legal opinion which deemed that BCC is not suitable to continue with the contract. 

The department’s decision to terminate the contract last year was correct. 

It was a reasonable instrument of accountability, even more so considering that the company management has never taken responsibility for one of the most daring prison escape in democratic history happening under its watch.

Instead the company chose to argue that its escape rate was minimal compared to other prisons. This argument was disingenuous and sought to divert attention from the fact the complexity of Bester's escape shed light on the depth of poor and corrupt management of the facility. 

A year since the decision to terminate was made, its implementation is stuck in litigation by the company challenging its grounds and legality. 

This week saw a further delay when a court refused to allow G4S to participate in BCC’s main application to challenge the termination. 

As a result, G4S has applied to appeal the decision, a move which will further delay proceedings of the main application. 

With two years until the official end of the contract, and considering the slow pace of litigation in our courts, it is therefore reasonable to believe that the matter may not be resolved before the original end date of the contract in June 2026.

The company has the right to challenge the decision if they believe, as they do, that it is unfair. But we must be mindful that its ongoing litigation is not simply about its rights.

It equally serves the purpose to place the decision on ice while the company continues to benefit from public money regardless of its actions which ultimately placed public life in danger. 

BCC and G4S officials have consistently shown themselves to fundamentally be about profiting at all costs and regardless of consequences. This case is yet another example of this trend. 

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