Department of correctional services in mediation talks on Mangaung prison management, yet is 'ready to take over'

01 August 2023 - 19:42
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Mangaung Correctional Centre.
Mangaung Correctional Centre.
Image: Mlungisi Louw/Volksblad/Gallo Images

The department of correctional services (DCS) says it is ready to take over the Mangaung Correctional Centre (MCC) in Bloemfontein where inmate Thabo Bester allegedly faked his own death and escaped last year — allegedly with the help of prison officials. 

The DCS has moved to dismiss the fears of the DA that cancelling the prison contract will result in millions of rand in taxpayer funds going down the drain. 

“DCS is ready to take over the centre and the plans are in place for a smooth transition,” said spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo.

DA shadow minister for correctional services Janho Engelbrecht said the DCS could lose millions of rand after minister Ronald Lamola terminated its contract with Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts Proprietary Ltd (BCC), the contractor managing the Mangaung prison from which Bester escaped.

Engelbrecht said it appeared that Lamola ignored the mediation clause in the contract. He added that Lamola is not allowed to terminate the contract pending the final determination of the application.

Engelbrecht said it has also come to the DA’s attention that the DCS was not sufficiently prepared to take over management of the facility — but Nxumalo said the department was ready.

“The DA again raised concerns about the financial risk the department would be exposed to after Lamola commenced with steps to summarily terminate the contract. These concerns ultimately fell on deaf ears,” Engelbrecht said.

The Pretoria high court recently ordered Lamola and the BCC enter into mediation as per the contract.

The court order states that in the event that mediation fails, the matter will be set down for urgent determination on September 19.

Nxumalo previously said the DCS and BCC were to start a mediation process in relation to the notice of termination issued by DCS on May 2.

Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts invoked clause 72.3 of the Concession Contract, which reads inter alia as follows: 

“Any dispute other than one to which Clause 72.2 applies, shall be referred to mediation under the auspices of the Arbitration Foundation of South Africa. The mediation shall be held in Pretoria, and the parties shall agree to the identity of the mediator, who shall, in consultation with the parties, determine the manner and procedure of the mediation.” 

Nxumalo said the parties are to mediate their disputes in accordance with the terms of the Concession Contract and are to take the necessary steps for the finalisation of the mediation proceedings on or before August 31.

“The notice of termination remains in force pending the finalisation of the mediation proceedings. Both parties reserve their rights pending the final determination of the mediation process,” he said.

TimesLIVE previously reported that the department and the BCC consortium entered into a private-public partnership (PPP) in 2000 that was due to end in June 2026. This led to a deal with multinational security company G4S, which was subcontracted by the department to operate the prison. 

The deal cost R7.7bn between 2001 and the 2021/22 financial year, with the department paying R45m a month for the contract. 


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