Popcru condemns Mangaung prison money for jobs and sex scandals

Mangaung Maximum Security Prison

Mangaung Maximum Security Prison

Published Mar 2, 2024


The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) says it is deeply concerned about the money for jobs and sex scandals at the infamous Mangaung Correctional Centre in Mangaung, Free State.

Media reports revealed that top officials at the embattled facility where Thabo Bester staged an infamous escape in 2022, were implicated in a money-for-jobs scandal in which the officials allegedly solicited protection fees from inmates and ran an elaborate sex ring.

The officials also allegedly intended to unfairly implicate their colleagues who have long service, in wrongdoing to prevent them from getting their benefits.

A leaked bank statement belonging to an inmate at the G4S-managed facility, shows payments from the inmate to several officials including the head of security, an internal investigator, and officials from Human Resources and operations.

Four suspects in the Thabo Bester escape saga appear in the Bloemfontein magistrates court on Monday for bail details. The father of Besters girlfriend Zollile Sikele was let out on bail of R10 000 plus conditions but the rest of the accused (Senohe Matsoara, Teboho Lipholo and Dr Nandipha Magudumana) in the case are remanded in custody till next month. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

Popcru President Thulani Ngwenya said what was happening at the facility was unacceptable.

Condemning both the Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts (BCC) and G4S, the private companies tasked with managing the facility, he warned that the union would protect the rights and interests of its members.

In addition to the allegations regarding a sex ring, poisonings, extortion, racketeering, and corruption, Ngwenya revealed that cost cutting and saving measures had contributed to other challenges at the facility.

Early this month, Independent Media revealed that the correctional centre had been hit by suspensions and resignations.

According to a source, Thandi Ntshala, who was the supervisor of the Ryhill unit, was suspended three weeks ago for smuggling. This came hot on the heels of the suspension of two other male prison officials, identified as Mr Zama and Mr Oscar who were reportedly suspended, also for smuggling.

It was further reported that as a way to save face, G4S Mangaung was scrambling to find replacements for the avalanche of recent suspensions.

“We are alarmed and, frankly, angered by reports that vulnerable inmates and staff are being exploited at Mangaung, and that top-ranking and senior G4S officials may be implicated in very serious crimes,” said Ngwenya.

Ngwenya also criticised the BCC for taking the department of correctional services to court to prevent it from terminating its contract despite the prisons’ failures.

He called for an end to private contracting of prisons, saying that the management of prisons was a government responsibility.

“This is why we have consistently advocated for the termination of all private prison contracts because they don’t serve the interest of rehabilitation but individual pockets. The recent events at Mangaung simply illustrate the dangers of placing private companies, whose only interest is profit, in charge of our correctional facilities.”

He further expressed concern that prison staff employed in private facilities such as Mangaung, may not receive pensions, and stated that POPCRU would not allow this.

POPCRU vowed to protect the rights of its members, adding that the union would ensure that its members received all benefits that were rightfully owed to them.

“We are determined to fight any unfair dismissals, as well as threats regarding the loss of pensions or any other benefits. Workers’ rights must be respected, and all disciplinary actions or dismissals must follow due processes.

“We have also received reports of threats and intimidation against staff employed at the Mangaung facility intended to silence them. We would like to strongly emphasise that all necessary measures will be taken to ensure their safety and well-being, while working to hold perpetrators accountable,” Ngwenya warned.

However, the correctional facility said the resignations were nothing to be suspicious about.

A G4S Care and Justice spokesperson, said: “We cannot share any information with regards to specific employees. However, none of these resignations are linked to Mr (Thabo) Bester’s prison escape.

“The resignations you refer to are not unusual for the sector, nor for the size of our employee base. In addition, the majority of these were due to employees retiring, leaving for health reasons, or to pursue other career opportunities.”

Saturday Star

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