Warder work stoppage at Kutama Sinthumule results in prisoners escape

Six prisoners from Kutama Sinthumule, a privately-run prison in Limpopo, have escaped following a work-stoppage by warders resulting in a spate of violence by prisoners which started last night. 

South African Police Service (SAPS) Spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo says cases of arson, malicious damage to property and escapes from lawful custody have been opened. The men are still at large. 

Pension negations between warders and prison management yesterday resulted in a temporary work stoppage which delayed some of the duties of the warders. Prisoners became upset about the lack of warder supervision and turned violent. Mojapelo says property, such as computers,  in the prison were burned and damaged.  An online video on zoutnet.co.za from last night shows the prison engulfed in flames.

Mojapelo adds that SAPS’ Tactical Response Team was deployed to calm the situation, along with Public Order Police and SAPS policemen. 
Department of Correctional Services (DCS) spokesperson Logan Maistry said DCS are doing what they can to calm the situation, “we are working in conjunction with the SAPS and deployed additional correctional officials to the facility to ensure the situation is restored to normal asap.” He adds, “reports received this morning indicate the situation is normalising.”  

The issue has been ongoing  since 2014 when 300 warders went on strike over pension disagreements. The warders accused the company which runs the prison - South African Custodial Management (SACM) – of mishandling their pension funds and also complained of unsatisfactory working conditions. 

SACM is a product of a partnership between Kensani Corrections - a company which designed, built and financed Kutama Sinthumule Correctional Centre – and The Geo Group, one of America’s biggest security companies. Currently, SACM and Kensani Corrections are engaging warders in negations. 

Lawrence Makatu, General Secretary of Union for Police and Corrections Organisations (UPSCO), representing the warders , said senior officials of the two companies addressed warders yesterday but said they do not “have the mandate to resolve the problem from their shareholders” who are  American and South African. Contact with these shareholders proved fruitless, Makatu says, “Even the shareholders in SA failed to assist.” 

Pension talks between management and warders are ongoing. However, Mojapelo said the prison is back to normal - except for the escapees who are still at large. 

-Azarrah Karrim

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