It is not yet clear what will be happening to the undocumented migrants at the nine-building facility.
The Bosasa-owned and run Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp reached an auction price of R60 million on Thursday in the second day of sales by liquidators, who are raising funds to repay the troubled company’s creditors and the SA Revenue Service (Sars), which said on Thursday that it is owed more than R500 million by Bosasa.
Sars is also opposing an interdict from Bosasa director Jared Watson against the auction, as well as the company’s attempt to go into business rescue.
The transit centre has become infamous for being something like a prison for undocumented migrants awaiting deportation. Bosasa, which was later rebranded African Global Operations, also had experience with running tenders in actual prisons.
Bidding for Lindela started at R30 million on Thursday morning, with Park Village Auctions explaining that the department of public works still has a monthly lease on it of about R1 million.
The assets of African Global Operations, formerly Bosasa, were auctioned off from Wednesday at their big campus headquarters in Johannesburg. The company is in liquidation, and the sales will go towards repaying its debts.
The running of the centre has been outsourced to Bosasa since 2003. Lindela is the only facility of its kind in South Africa.
There were unconfirmed reports on Wednesday that migrants were being “kicked out” of the facility ahead of the auction.
In 2014 the SA Human Rights Commision and other applicant organisations argued that Lindela’s practices regarding detention at the facility were unconstitutional and in contravention of the Immigration Act.
The commission’s spokesman Isaac Mangena said individuals had been subject to inhumane treatment, including being detained for longer than 30 days without the necessary magisterial warrant permitting extended detention, experiencing a miscalculation by the home affairs department on the start of the 30-day period of detention, the failure of Lindela officials to follow fair procedure, and keeping migrants in detention for longer than 120 days.
The court ordered that the home affairs department ensure that no person was detained for a period exceeding 30 days from the date on which that person was first arrested.
In October, the Congress of the People’s national spokesperson Dennis Bloem alleged that Bosasa was still managing Lindela and processing undocumented foreign nationals, which created a row involving the ministry of home affairs.
Bloem, who has served as correctional services portfolio committee chair while an ANC MP, dropped a bombshell with claims that Bosasa was “still contracted and continuing to milk the SA government of millions of rands every month”.
He challenged government to “come out in the open and tell the country who was managing the Lindela repatriation centre”.
In response to Bloem’s charges, home affairs ministry spokesperson Siya Qoza denied the claims, saying the repatriation centre was being managed by “an administrator appointed by the court during the Bosasa liquidation hearing”.
“As home affairs, we don’t run the Lindela repatriation centre, nor does Bosasa do so.
“We are currently looking at three options on Lindela, one of which is to purchase the land upon which the centre is built from Bosasa,” said Qoza.
Bloem did not believe government’s explanation. He had earlier testified before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on how Bosasa siphoned billions out of correctional services’ questionable tenders.
He said: “In his evidence before the commission, Angelo Agrizzi – the former COO of Bosasa – testified that the company had paid bribes to several cabinet ministers, MPs and senior government officials to get lucrative contracts.”
The 26-hectare Lindela used to be a mining compound, but was converted by Bosasa, and even features a workshop and soccer field. It was reported by the DA this year that Bosasa received about R1 billion to manage the facility in 2005, with renewals of half a billion each year after that for another five years.
Qoza and home affairs’ immediate plans with Lindela and its deportees are not yet clear.
The properties being sold at the auction include the head office and a copper plant.
The auction has been well attended, with more than 600 people at Bosasa’s headquarters in Krugersdorp yesterday looking for a deal.
Last month the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) found in favour of keeping the company in liquidation, emboldening the auctioneers, who had already started advertising the event
Bosasa had gone into voluntary liquidation in February following their banks announcing they would be closing all of the company’s accounts due to corruption allegations.
Bosasa subsequently tried to reverse the liquidation but the SCA upheld an appeal by the provisional liquidators to keep the company in voluntary liquidation, which paved the way for the company’s full liquidation.
The company’s directors applied to go into business rescue this week.