Jail is a raw deal: Prisoners sentenced to bad food
Bosasa is under scrutiny again. Now it's for the food it serves in prisons - and the contract that allows it to do so
Bosasa Operations has been dragged into another controversy – this time over the quality of food they serve at some of the country’s biggest prisons.
But while inmates are complaining, African Global, the holding company, said no complaints were raised in the regular meetings with the department of correctional services (DCS) where nutritional issues are discussed.
The company entered into a new R479m feeding tender last year with DC. Since 2013/14 financial year, DCS has spent R2.9bn with the company.
Prison rights activist Derrick Mdluli of Justice for Prisoners and Detainees Trust for Human Rights (JPDT) questioned the contract in light of a number of failed projects with the DCS.
The South African Correctional Services Workers Union (Sacoswu) has also called for the feeding tender – awarded last year – to be independently reviewed.
The company is currently feeding 46,000 prisoners across the country. It was awarded the contract in the 2013/14 financial year for three years.
Officials from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Eastern Cape and Gauteng who spoke to Times Select last week said inmates were being fed twice a day by Bosasa while the DCS-run prisons were feeding inmates three meals a day.
Mdluli said he had complained a number of times to prison authorities. “Feeding inmates is a basic right, not a privilege. Many of these inmates are on medication, and they have to eat at least three meals a day.”
Skithy Cele, provincial secretary of Sacoswu in KZN, questioned how this tender was awarded.
“Who is benefiting here? Today we have hundreds of trained officials on food management who took three-year courses, but they are not utilised.”
But African Global director Papa Leshabane said: “The contract is to provide four meals daily to an offender population of 46,000. This includes takeaway meals for offenders attending various courts. A monthly nutritional meeting is held with DCS in all seven management areas to deal with complaints and compliments. So far African Global Operations have not received any complaints with regard to the quality of service and food.”
DCS spokesperson Logan Maistry confirmed they had a valid contract with the company to provide feeding services in 29 correctional centres.
“Since 2013/14, R2,992,763,520 [has been spent] for nutrition services,” said Maistry.
A photo taken of a meal served at St Albans prison in Port Elizabeth showed a plastic container with oats, five slices of bread and a sachet of dry flavoured pellets to be mixed with water.
Maistry said: “According to management at St. Albans, after breakfast, inmates proceed to work and do not come back to the facility for lunch. They take their lunch [bread and beverage] with to their respective workplaces. When they are back from work, their next meal [protein, starch and two types of vegetables] is served.”
Times Select was told that in prisons fed by African Global, inmates got porridge and two slices of bread for breakfast, plus five or seven extra slices of bread and a sachet of powdered drink to keep as their lunch. For dinner (served from 3pm) pap or samp is served with meat, including fish sometimes.
In prisons fed by DCS, inmates are given porridge, two slices of bread, powder milk and tea for breakfast. For lunch they get a piece of meat, pap and vegetables and bread, a cup of tea and jam or syrup and sometimes two eggs for dinner.
Nutritionist Madelein Coetzee of Wits Donald Gordon MediClinic in Parktown said it was important for inmates to have a balanced meal and a diet that has about 50-60% energy including bread, potatoes and maize pap.
“Also, protein is important in their daily meal; that portion of meat in their plate is vital. Ideally, fruit and vegetables are important for their plate, at least five portions a day.”
Initially, African Global was awarded the tender in 2004 for R470m. In January 2009, the same company was again awarded a three-year tender to feed 31 prisons at R830m.
When Mapisa-Nqakula took over in 2009, she called for the contract to end and that prison officials and inmates be skilled to run the feeding programme. But then DCS national commissioner Tom Moyane told the correctional services committee in parliament that DCS was not ready to run the feeding of inmates.
Moyane, getting pressure from the committee, gave a firm commitment that nutrition outsourcing would come to an end by January 2013. By the time he retired in 2013, the contract had again been awarded to Bosasa for another term.
Bosasa made news headlines this year for allegedly treating several high-profile ministers and government officials, including Gwede Mantashe and Nomvula Mokonyane and deputy minister Thabang Makwetla, to high-tech security systems in their homes.