Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Who is G4S, the company that runs the Mangaung Correctional Centre?

G4S management in South Africa was grilled in parliament this week about the escape of the Facebook rapist, Thabo Bester.

After the confirmation that the Facebook rapist Thabo Bester escaped from the Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein, people started wondering about the company, G4S, that runs the centre.

According to its website, G4S is a “leading global security and outsourcing group, specialising in the provision of security services, technology solutions and outsourcing services”.

Its headquarters is London and it calls itself the world’s largest security services provider, with operations in more than 90 countries.

The company, Integritron Integrated Solutions, has also been mentioned and one of its employees allegedly tampered with the cameras it supplied on the day of Bester’s escape. Integritron Integrated Solutions is a partner of G4S and is a South African IT company that also provides security services.

According to the website, the Public Private Partnership between G4S and the department of correctional services was the first of its kind in South Africa and G4S was part of the consortium responsible for the design, construction and financing of the project.

G4S signed a 25-year contract to operate the facility as sub-contractor to the consortium. The Mangaung prison is the second largest private prison in the world and opened in 2001.

ALSO READ: WATCH: Thabo Bester – DA’s Glynnis Breytenbach rips into G4S report

What does G4S do?

The company provides security solutions for governments, businesses and other organisations and its services include manned security, electronic security, corporate security, cash solutions, facility management and risk management, while it also provides services such as guarding and monitoring, investigation, screening, training and consulting.

A London-based global security company, Allied Universal®, bought G4S in 2021. The website says this acquisition expanded Allied Universal’s footprint and infrastructure on a global and local level. It has a global workforce of approximately 800 000 people and revenue of approximately $20 billion.

G4S says it has an extensive network of offices and more than 122 000 employees in Africa and the Middle East and the company believes that “there is no greater purpose than serving and safeguarding customers, communities and people in today’s world”.

It says that the company specialises in outsourced business processes and facilities in sectors where security and safety risks are considered a strategic threat and uses its global expertise and local knowledge in the assessment and management of security and safety risks for buildings, infrastructure, materials, valuables, people and society.

ALSO READ: G4S insists Mangaung ‘one of most secure’ SA prisons, despite Thabo Bester blunders

Media statement from 2019

On the South African part of the website is a statement regarding “Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts and Mangaung Correctional Centre” that was loaded on 22 November 2019 that states G4S South Africa was contacted regarding a forthcoming documentary programme relating to the Mangaung Correctional Centre.

According to the statement, Mangaung Correctional Centre provides for the safety and security of approximately 3 000 maximum security prisoners by providing safe custody, care and development through a number of programmes aimed at the rehabilitation of the people in its care.

It goes on to say that G4S South Africa became a minority shareholder in Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts in 1998 as the concessionaire company responsible for the management of the Mangaung Correctional Centre and that the company anticipates that G4S South Africa’s investment will end in 2026, when the centre’s contract expires. G4S South Africa has no plans to invest further in correctional services in South Africa.

G4S states that the Mangaung Correctional Centre is committed to the respect and protection of the human rights of those in its care and has a zero tolerance policy towards the mistreatment of prisoners.

ALSO READ: ‘Mockery of this procedure’: G4S fails to show up in Parliament over Thabo Bester saga

No basis for 2019 complaint

The company says it received reports of alleged mistreatment of prisoners at Mangaung Correctional Centre in 2013 and proposed that a retired judge carry out an independent investigation into the allegations.

“In the event, Mangaung Correctional Centre reviewed the allegations and concluded that there was no evidence to support the allegations.” 

G4S said Mangaung Correctional Centre is operated according to the standards set out in the Correctional Services Act and is subject to rigorous independent oversight including an on-site controller and support staff appointed by the department of correctional services to monitor compliance with all contractual requirements and daily operations, including any use of force which are reported to the controller for review.

The controller reports directly to the national commissioner of correctional services, while the office of the Inspecting Judge appoints a number of independent correctional centre visitors who are on-site at the centre and responsible for monitoring compliance with the contract and the standards.

Although the department has already taken back control of the prison, G4S could face legal action from the state, as well as potential financial sanctions. The company is already facing public criticism that could not be good for its reputation.

G4S could also face financial losses due to costs associated with the incident, such as compensation payments to victims, damages and legal fees.

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