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G4S: Hostage inmates possibly paid

The security firm says Wednesday’s incident may be linked to the sacking of 300 Popcru members.

FILE: The security firm says Wednesday’s incident may be linked to the sacking of 300 Popcru members. Taurai Maduna/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The hostage situation at the Mangaung Correctional Centre may have been a deliberate, organised move to destabilise the prison, G4S Africa president Andy Baker said on Thursday.

Four inmates took a woman from the private security firm hostage for 12 hours at the Bloemfontein facility on Wednesday.

Baker described the incident as a "harrowing experience" for the employee.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, the woman said she was treated well while being held captive.

G4S now suspects inmates may have been paid.

Baker says the woman is a highly trained warden.

The security company took over operations at the Free State facility after 300 Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) members were fired for staging an unprotected strike earlier this year.

The company president claims the unrest may be linked to the sackings.

"There are certainly links - there is no question at all."

Baker says a number of inmates have given sworn affidavits saying they were offered money to destabilise the facility.

"We are pursuing criminal charges against the people that are fuelling this [instability]. We have certain challenges that are abnormal and extreme."

G4S says an investigation is still at an early stage and no arrests have been made as yet.

The woman was eventually rescued through a joint operation by the South African Police Service and G4S.

Baker says she was taken hostage after returning from a morning exercise.

She was held in a cell.

He says the rescue operation took 12 hours because the men had threatened the woman with a makeshift weapon.

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