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Kimberley prison cost R600m more

10 Feb 2010
Taxpayers coughed up R600m more than was originally budgeted for the brand new prison outside Kimberley, which is “like a hotel”.

Members of the parliamentary portfolio committee on corrective services and public works were taken aback when they heard that the costs to build this modern medium security prison rose from R250m in 2004 to an astronomical R857m.

ANC members who visited the jail last week also railed against the fact that the jail looks more like a “luxury hotel” than a jail.

Officials from the department of public works yesterday said construction stood still for nearly four years after going through two tender processes. The prison, which is able to house 3,000 inmates, should have been completed in December 2008.

Nchaupe Malebye, chief operational official at the department of public works, said “inclement weather”, “heavy rain” and load shedding delayed the project.

He also attributed the 250% increase in costs to the massive rise in the prices of steel and cement, labour unrest, high fuel costs and “small” changes to the building plans.

But the committee members said this explanation is hard to believe.

“All the delays cost millions of rands. This is taxpayers’ money!” an indignant Albert Fritz, DA MP, said.

Vincent Smith, ANC MP, also said Malebye’s answer doesn’t hold water. “No inflation is that bad.”

He reprimanded Malebye over government officials’ view that the treasury is an inexhaustible money well. “I’m telling you today that building plans cannot be changed willy-nilly when taxpayers’ money is at stake.”

Salamuddi Abram, ANC MP, warned that this attitude “will drive South Africa over the precipice”. “The view that government has lots of money, needs to change immediately.”

Committee members visited the jail last week and Mavis Mdaka, ANC MP, made it clear that the prison is way too luxurious. “I wasn’t impressed at all. Such a fancy place cannot be a jail. It looks more like a hotel - No, you can’t build another place like this.”

Teboho Motseki, deputy commissioner for corrective services, said the security at the “new generation” jail is much improved and the design of the buildings makes guarding duties easier. – Lizel Steenkamp, Beeld

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