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Desk kids

Gavin Watson’s Bosasa youth centres may have to close

By Alameen Templeton

Ten Bosasa youth development centres for children awaiting trial or battling behaviour problems may be forced to close following founder Gavin Watson’s sudden death

THE future is bleak for children, many awaiting trial, at 10 Bosasa youth development centres across the country after liquidators stepped in.

The liquidators for the company, now known as African Global Operations (AGO), have sent notices to stop rendering services at the end of October.

The centres house young people with severe behavioural challenges and many are in conflict with the law.

A letter was sent to the centres on 8 August titled: “Notice of termination of the service level agreements – and termination of employment.” It tells centre employees their last day of work will be October 31.

In the letter, liquidator Ralph Lutchman, says the centres have been operating while in liquidation and this has “placed tremendous strain on the business operations” and staff morale.

“We urge you to continue your normal duties in a professional matter until the service is terminated,” Lutchman says.

However, the national social development department says it has returned the letter with a request for a redraft outlining adequate reasons for the “termination”.

Bosasa liquidator, Cloete Murray Friday took charge at the company’s headquarters in Krugersdorp (Mogale).

The Mogale centre was the first and largest secure care centre to be privately managed in South Africa when it opened outside Krugersdorp in 1995.

Bosasa then established centres across the country between 1995 and 2012, aimed at children between the ages of 14 and 17.

An official at the De Aar centre insisted it would remain open despite news reports it would be closed this weekend.

The beleaguered facilities management and security company announced in February it was under voluntary liquidation after FNB said it would close the company’s banking facilities by February 28.

AGO and its directors have been implicated at the state capture commission corruption and bribery in exchange for state contracts.

National social development department spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said the termination letters give the October timeframe without citing reasons.

This led to a meeting between the department, the liquidators and the Master of the High Court.

“An agreement was reached that the liquidator will go back and rewrite the letters including reasons for the early termination or exit. The department is still awaiting the revised letter.”

The liquidators have as yet not commented.

Oliphant said the children remained their priority and any changes would have to be premised on “the understanding that there should be no inconvenience, disruption or compromise to the safety and well-being of the children”.

“There are retrieval plans for each province, however, it is important to note that provinces are at different levels in terms of retrieving the service from the service provider. The plans indicate what will happen when and who is going to take care of the children,” she said.

Western Cape provincial communications head Esther Lewis said the department would take over the Clanwillian and Horizon centres as of November 1.

The provincial department began preparing to take over the provided services in March 2019 after the liquidation was announced.

“This process, including recruitment of staff, is expected to be concluded in October in order to ensure the services being rendered to children in those centres are not disrupted,” Lewis said.

The Gauteng social development department said plans were in place, awaiting approval.

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