Cape Town – Prisoners across South Africa are crying foul, possibly confirming damning evidence of tender irregularities at the Department of Correctional Services.
Dennis Bloem, former Cope MP and chairperson of the portfolio committee on correctional services, testified before the Zondo commission about alleged corruption relating to a catering contract at correctional facilities.
While millions in taxpayers’ money was paid to Bosasa to provide fresh food and a catering service to prisons, inmates said they continued to do “all the cooking and serving of stale food”.
A former inmate, 38-year-old Reggie Watkins (not his real name), spoke about the decade he spent at Pollsmoor Prison.
“I remember the smell of the meat and the fish like it was yesterday. I was released a year and a half ago and I can tell you horrific stories about the food served in jail,” he said.
“We were fed food not even fit for animals, I remember one day we got chicken with green stuff all over it. We never complained, we just had to cook the food and serve to other inmates,” he said.
During his testimony Bloem told the commission the catering contract was just a money laundering scheme.
“Bosasa said they would take over the kitchens and do the cooking; it was a blue lie. The inmates were still doing the cooking… I am talking from experience, I visited these areas. Sondolo (Bosasa) had one office in the middle of the kitchen. Sondolo was just taking the money. Chairperson, there was no labour from Bosasa. It was the inmates that cooked, prepared and dished out the food. We never got an answer about who was providing the food,” Bloem told the commission.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s shock at the revelations prompted him to request an immediate investigation. “I hope investigators can establish if it is still ongoing with regards to the catering contract,” said Zondo.
While the pre-school sector gets less than R20 per child per day for the care and feeding of a child, R350 was allegedly paid to Bosasa per inmate per day.
Bosasa executive director Papa Leshabane dismissed all claims of corruption.
“We are rendering a service that comprises training of inmates, training of Department of Correctional Services members, providing three dietetically balanced meals per day per inmate, provision of take-away meals for inmates attending court and maintenance of kitchen equipment,” he said.
Leshabane denied that the company received R350 per inmate per day, but would not confirm the exact amount.