The Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp is one of the largest undocumented immigrant-holding facilities in South Africa.
The detention centre, meant to hold between 4,000 and 5,000 people at any one time, was built and is currently legally controlled by the department of home affairs and is managed by the Bosasa Group, which has now been renamed to African Global Operations (AGO), reports Krugersdorp News.
As part of its operations, AGO employs security personnel to suppress violence among the detainees, and to keep the premises safe. The security branch of AGO was previously known simply as Bosasa Security, but has changed its name to BlackRox Security and Intelligence Services.
Security workers have grown increasingly unhappy with their working circumstances in recent months, leading to an authorised worker strike starting in the early morning hours of Monday morning, right in front of the gate of the Lindela Centre.
“We were hired as security officers, but we do extra duties like escorting them [the detainees] to hospitals. We take them to the kitchen to eat,” security worker Samuel Mathulwe said. “Some of them are sick with various diseases such as TB, meningitis, or malaria, but the company does not vaccinate us or provide us with medical aid. We are sick most of the time with these contagious diseases.”
Samuel also noted that workers were taken by BlackRox to a private hospital when assaulted by inmates, and to a public hospital when they get sick.
Another concern raised was their working hours. They only go off duty at 10pm, when there was no longer any public transport available.
“We have female employees who have to walk home at this time of night,” said Ishmael Molobela, who also works as a security officer at the centre.
The security workers also claimed that, when they brought these issues to the attention of management, they were allegedly threatened with being fired.
These security workers feel that a monthly salary of R4,300 wasn’t enough for everything they had to do, bearing in mind that they were required to do tasks that fell outside the ambit of their job descriptions.
“The inmates assault us, especially when there are riots. If a security officer tries to fight back, they open a case, and our members get arrested, and then fired,” Mathulwe claimed.
The current salary really isn’t enough when one considers that these workers pay about R1,500 in rent, and have to find and pay for their own transport to and from work. It’s important to note that the national minimum wage is R3,500, depending on how many hours you work.
As things currently stand, workers act not just as security staff, but as custodial officers as well.
The workers have banded together and drawn up a list containing the following demands: A R600 transport allowance; R2,500 housing allowance; R1,200 danger pay; R1,500 performance bonus, and medical aid. This would effectively increase their salary package to just over R10, 000, before tax deductions.
On Monday, the striking workers marched from the Lindela Centre to the Bosasa/ African Global Operations corporate office in Luipaardsvlei to hand in a memorandum listing their demands.
Molobela ensured that this was meant to be a peaceful march and that their strike would not turn violent.