/ 30 January 2009

Popcru: Balfour must resign

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), which represents about 80% of the country’s 45 000 prison workers, on Friday asked for the immediate resignation of Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour.

This comes after the Mail & Guardian revealed high-level conniving with regards to multimillion-rand tenders between the department and controversial facilities management group Bosasa.

Union spokesperson Benzi Ka-Soko said Popcru welcomed the M&G’s revelations.

‘Popcru is on record as saying that minister Balfour and his sycophantic senior management have corrupted this department on a shockingly massive scale. The unprecedented removal of former national commissioner Mr Vernie Petersen was aimed at frustrating corruption-busting that he was strongly implementing in the department. We view this exposed facts of corruption as a vindication for Mr Petersen.”

According to Popcru, Balfour and all those implicated should immediately resign ‘in the light of this hard-hitting and other damning information”.

Popcru’s comments follow the M&G’s publication of detailed correspondence between the department’s former chief financial officer Patrick Gillingham and Bosasa’s operations coordinator Angelo Agrizzi that proves Bosasa had confidential documents leaked to it by Gillingham; that the company had access to tender documents for major prison projects before they were publicly advertised, and that senior correctional services employees were spied on during a 2006 workshop.

Bosasa is headed by Eastern Cape businessman Gavin Watson, whose family had close ties with the Eastern Cape African National Congress (ANC) during the struggle years, when the Watson brothers became famous for refusing to play rugby for a whites-only Springbok team.

The group also runs the controversial Lindela repatriation camp for the Department of Home Affairs and has large contracts with the South African Post Office, Airports Company of South Africa and the departments of justice and transport.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been probing Bosasa since 2006 and raided its offices in December. Three weeks after the raid the company was re-awarded the massive prisons catering contract it landed in 2004.

Former prisons commissioner Vernie Petersen suspended Gillingham in September after receiving a preliminary SIU report. Petersen was later transferred to the sports department in what was widely seen as a reprisal for his opposition to Balfour’s attempts to extend the 2004 contract.

Balfour also wanted Gillingham to head the tender committee awarding the new contract, while Petersen insisted that Gillingham not be involved.