COSATU Statement on a prisoner’s escape from a privately run Mangaung Correctional Centre in the Free State

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is completely disturbed by revelations that a prison inmate who was meant to be properly secured under maximum security, Thabo Bester, was able to escape the Mangaung Correctional Centre in the Free State, which is managed by the private security company, G4S under questionable circumstances. 

The government must explain how this happened and will be prevented it from recurring. It must also account for whose body was found in Bester’s cell.  Bester needs to be found and returned to the cell where he belongs.  Whistle-blowers who testified against his horrendous crimes in court need to be protected by the SAPS Witness Protection.

This is an embarrassing scandal that should shame those who lobbied and pushed for the privatisation of prisons. This should be attributed to the New Public Management model that promoted the commodification of public services rather than the promotion of constitutional or citizenship rights, and as such citizens became “customers” or “clients” in the practice of the delivery of public services.

It remains a national scandal that private companies continue to be given huge amounts of taxpayers` money to profit from a responsibility that belongs to the state. This amounted to the state selling out integrity and morality in exchange for the maximization of profits.

These private prisons generate revenue by exploiting workers in some of the most unethical conditions, and with their focus, only on profits the needs of prisoners and workers are habitually overlooked and underfunded.

It was unethical, in the first place, to give this British-Danish private security company that provides services and equipment to Israeli prisons, checkpoints, the Apartheid Wall, and the Israeli police taxpayer’s money, when the country has a clear position on countries that practice Apartheid.

We reiterate our call on our government to cut ties with this company whose record for gross human rights violations speaks volumes. We further call on the Department of Correctional Services to revisit its decision to privatise prisons in the country.  Correctional Services remain a matter of national security and should be treated as such. The government must honour its previous commitment to insourcing all security functions. This will save the state’s badly needed resources currently being lost to profiteering and ensure that those in authority can be held accountable by the public through Parliament.

Issued by COSATU 

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911

Cell: 060 975 6794