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Category: Media Statement

Media Statement

POPCRU statement on the escape of Thabo Bester from the Mangaung Correctional Centre

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) has noted with shock emerging revelations relating to the escape of an inmate, Thabo Bester from the Mangaung Correctional Centre, which is contracted to G4S, a British multinational private security company on the 3rd of May 2022.

Following this incident, there has since been an internal investigation which had been closed, wherein the Security Supervisor at the time was dismissed on charges of negligence as opposed to the causal factor behind the fire in the cell, and his matter is currently being handled by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). Three other officials from the Emergency Security Team (EST) are currently under suspension.

It is only now that the matter is reopened on the basis of media reports surrounding the whereabouts of Thabo Bester, which demonstrates that indeed the management of the centre tried to brush the matter under the carpet.

This further raises questions as to whom the burnt body belongs, and how it found itself in Cell 35.

This brings to question the level of responsibility the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) takes in monitoring, and the functionality of controllers which it appoints to ensure that contractual obligations with these private prisons are not violated in line with the prescripts of the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998.

The government spends almost R1 billion a year of taxpayers’ money on two private prisons which have around 5952 inmates incarcerated – one in Mangaung, Free State, the other in Makhado, Limpopo – owned and managed by local consortiums led by multinational British and US companies.

According to a report tabled in Parliament in October 2022, by way of contrast, the department of correctional services has a daily budget allowance of R385 to detain, clothe and feed prisoners. Costs are considerably steeper and more profitable at the privately run Mangaung Prison at R435 per person a day, and R412 at the Kutama-Sinthumule prison, which are run as a public-private partnership involving the security company G4S and GEO Group respectively.

We are of the firm view that this escape, including multiple other misconducts and abuses reported over the years are mainly a consequence of the DCS having outsourced the functions of the state’s security to foreign-owned companies whose sole preoccupation is profit maximisation as opposed to the core mandate of rehabilitating inmates.

These private companies have a disregard for human rights. Aside from the moral and ethical arguments about prison privatisation, there is ample operational evidence that the policy itself is flawed. The fact that the human rights dimension of private prisons has not been fully examined, is a dereliction of duty.

We are of the view that the provision of law and order is the key function of any government. This duty should not be delegated to the private sector, because it is motivated by profit. Money that could be allocated to services is creamed off in profits and fees for consultants and advisory schemes; the private sector becomes even more entrenched in criminal justice policy-making; and the fuse is lit on a financial time bomb. So far private prisons have failed to demonstrate that they are cost-effective, innovative, and have lower recidivism rates.

Any prison that is being built should contribute to crime prevention by rehabilitating prisoners and reducing repeat incarceration, and for this, we urge the DCS to immediately take over the two private prisons in the country and scrape their contracts as they extend to 2026 and 2027. This should also be accompanied by absorbing all personnel as fully fledged correctional officials.

Issued by POPCRU on 27/03/2023

For more information contact Richard Mamabolo on 066 135 4349

Media Statement

POPCRU on the current impasse within the Public Service

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) has noted recent developments regarding the outstanding impasse in relation to public servants’ demands around the government’s unilateral implementation of a 3% against the inflation rate of 6,7%, leading to further hostilities that have resulted in the latter intimidating workers through court interdicts, with the sole aim of defocusing and dividing workers.

We wish to categorically state that we are part of and support actions taken by public service unions who are currently mobilising against the employer in defence of collective bargaining.

As POPCRU, we have resolved last year to embark on a national march, held on the 20th of September 2022, with build-up programs including provincial lunch-hour pickets and provincial marches. These programs included submitting a memorandum of demands that among others included the following;

* Reversal of Austerity Measures/Budget Cuts

* Filling of all vacant posts

* Full implementation of PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018

* Non-implementation of all signed agreements and resolutions 

* End to police killings and rising levels of violent crime

* Development and implementation of a promotion policy and grade progression

* Employment of more workers in SAPS, DCS and Traffic

* Building of safe Police Stations for effective crime prevention

* Increase in all Danger Allowances

* Provision of tools of trade in all departments. 

* The incorporation of Public Service Act Personnel as a Category into the SAPS

  • A clear upward mobility for the PSA Act in the SAPS
  • An end to recruitment corruption in SAPS

The march was about defending the hard-won gains of workers and defending collective bargaining. It was equally directed at government to do away with implementing neoliberal macroeconomic policies of austerity which have destroyed the capacity of the state to deliver on critical services especially in the criminal justice system, and this is evident with the budget cuts and spending that have weakened crime prevention and justice in the country.

Subsequently, the POPCRU Central Executive Committee (CEC held last year from 27-30 November 2022 resolved to continue with the program and to take our grievances to national parliament during this year (2023). We have since drawn up a program of action which, considering other developments within and among public service unions, will be intensified and carried out from Monday, 13 March 2023 which will include lunch-time pickets across workplaces and identified government departments.

As things stand, members within the Criminal Justice (CJC) are spending about 90% of their salaries on basic needs, while they do not qualify for RDP houses, and cannot afford bonded houses. All these challenges they face while government has been refusing to implement the Government Employee Housing Scheme (GEHS).

Our intensified actions will also include the full implementation of the 3rd leg of the PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018, the reversal of the unilateral implementation of a 3% wage hike for the 2022/23 financial year and an end to austerity measures.

We reiterate once again that this 6th Administration is hell-bent on destroying collective bargaining, rights of workers and made it as its task to reverse and roll-back the gains made by workers over the years. This is evident through numerous actions and continuous appetite of approaching labour courts in resolving matters of collective bargaining as opposed of taking advantage of institutions of dialogues such as bargaining councils.

Workers have been on the receiving end of the assault by this 6th Administration in many ways, including poor working conditions despite the fact that public service workers contribute on daily basis to the betterment of the South African people, especially the working class and the poor in the frontlines of service delivery. For our work to be effective, the public service must have a strong capacity in terms of the suitable headcount of workers in different departments and work-stations. It must also have capabilities in terms of the necessary skills and ongoing training support.

Today, the public service has been severely weakened, especially with regard to its capacity because of the moratorium that has been imposed on the filling of vacancies as a result of the multiple years of the Treasury’s austerity measures. Therefore, the improvements in our working conditions, including improvement in pay, is a necessary means of strengthening the public service.

We remain resolute and reiterate our position that there shall be no 2023/24 wage negotiation until this current dispute is resolved, and urge workers to gather strength during these intimidations, and to be more resolute and determined in their fight to achieve the demands they set, and support the unity demonstrated by the multiple public sector unions as they pursue the agenda of improving their wages and conditions of employment, and in defence of collective bargaining.

Issued by POPCRU on 10/03/2023

For more information contact Richard Mamabolo on 066 135 4349

Media Statement

Public Service Unions take their protests to National Treasury

Public service unions organised under DENOSA, NEHAWU, POPCRU, SAPU, PAWUSA, SAEPU, NUPSAW and SAMATU ,collectively representing  public service servants within the bargaining scope of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) have once again jointly converged in unison at the Cape Town City Hall and Tshwane to deliver their dissatisfaction in the manner in which the so called ‘caring employer’ continues to treat its employees ,who are the most valuable assets in the public service.

On the 2st of February 2023 they submitted a memorandum against the background of having embarked on a mass industrial action in November 2022, wherein they submitted a memorandum of demands, following the collapse of the wage negotiations and the unilateral implementation of a 3% wage increment by government.

This clearly demonstrated to them the employer’s continuous disregard for the stipulated collective bargaining prescripts contained within the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 98, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Labour Relations Act (LRA), the constitution of the PSCBC as a platform for social dialogue and the promotion of labour peace.

At best, the employer’s responses to their stated demands have not only been flimsy, but deliberately aimed at lessening the effectiveness, power and ability of this social dialogue insidiously. This is the greatest threat towards collective bargaining, and they cannot allow this wrong precedent to continue, and for the status quo to prevail. They remain resolute that they will not allow and agree to the reversal of workers’ hard-won gains and the undermining of collective bargaining which came through the blood and sweat of workers.

To date, these public service unions are talking about the livelihoods of over 1,2 million workers within the public service who are at the coalface of public service delivery. These workers continue to ensure that our communities receive the much-needed public services which include, among others healthcare, safety and security, education, social services and justice.

The current debacle in the public service must be understood in the context of the neoliberal austerity measures that are implemented by the African National Congress-led (ANC) government. When the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, presented the mid-term austerity budget of the sixth administration in Parliament in 2022, wherein he celebrated the Treasury’s apparent success in its attack on collective bargaining, proudly stating that “sibazamile”. This became a clear sign of their intent to erode standard collective bargaining processes at the bargaining council, which is a further clear indication of their ultimate intent of liquidating trade unionism in South Africa.

These unions are convinced that the government is hell-bent on reversing the gains that the workers have registered over the years, and as we are gathered here this government led by a bully being the National Treasury that has literally become a State within a State. Lately we have seen the trend by the National Treasury where they are dictating their own Economic trajectory amidst a crisis against workers and the poor.

The government has already pronounced on additional reversals of the collective bargaining resolutions and gains in the public service including:

•   Job cuts through “measures to reduce headcounts” through early retirement and natural attrition;

•   The abolishing of vacant funded posts;

•   The harmonisation and abolishment of allowances and benefits;

Workers share the hardships faced by the working class and the unemployed on a daily basis and are very conscious of rising unemployment, deepening poverty, staggering job losses, world-record inequality, increases in the cost of living and widespread corruption.

All these have become enslaved in our own our daily duties just in the name of keeping the State operations alive; YET the “caring employer” keeps turning a blind eye on our commitment to service. It has been three years that we have endured, hoping that we will win this battle in the boardroom. We have engaged this employer on many occasions about our state of affair, about the deteriorating conditions of service, about the need to compensate accordingly, about the negative effects of austerity measures, about respecting and protecting collective bargaining. The more we engage the more this employer turns hard on us and just ignores our plight. Now we are tired and have resolved to take our battle to the streets, hence we are gathered here.

It is now very clear that the government has since resolved to advance a neoliberal agenda which seeks to stifle economic growth, constraining the fiscal expansion and paralyzing State spending. Workers are the direct recipients of this atrocious policy pursuit as the public sector wage bill is becoming a focal point against other frivolously spending budget items. This has seen cuts in public spending, leading to massive reduction in all aspects of social and economic benefits to the people, in wages, retirement benefits and pensions, health and education and social welfare transfers.

The reduction in headcounts exercaebted by unfilled vacancies has produced worst ratios compared to international standards. For an example, in police services, the police-to-population ratios is 1: 410 whereas the United Nations’ recommended ratio is 1: 220; the nurse-to-patient ratio is 1:287 whereas the recommendation from the Word Health Organization (WHO) is 83 nurses per 10 000 population.

The unions called on the government to do away with the implementation of neoliberal macro-economic policies which have led to inequalities, poverty, unemployment, job losses, austerity, privatization and have destroyed the capacity of the state to deliver on education, health, policing, and social care.

They further demanded the following;

(a) A reversal of austerity measures that are targeted to the public sector as a whole.

(b) An end to attacks on Collective Bargaining and to protect PSCBC as an institution for social dialogue and a stop to disempowering it.

(c) We demand a real increment of 10% that will assist to retain the buying power of the public servants.

(e) We demand permanent employment of Reservists, Community Health Workers, Comm-Serves and Teacher Assistants.

(f)  We demand the filling of all vacant posts and the reversal of the subtle moratorium introduced by the State.

(g) We demand the insourcing of all outsourced services.

  • We demand the immediate implementation of the 2022 resolutions of the Public Service Summit.

They have collectively resolved to activate their strength through these pickets which took place both in Cape Town and Tshwane, and gave the employer seven working days to respond to their demands.