Cape Town - The Department of Public Works is considering selling the Pollsmoor Prison estate, which is set among some of the country’s most expensive properties.
The precinct, which is about 2.5 square kilometres, is owned by national government and run by the Department of Correctional Services.
Responding to a parliamentary question posed by DA MP James Selfe this week, Public Works confirmed it was conducting a “feasibility study on the possible disposal” of Pollsmoor and Leeuwkop Prison in Joburg.
The feasibility study was requested by the Department of Correctional Services and so far no final decision has been taken.
Pollsmoor is located between the neighbourhoods of Tokai, Westlake and Steenberg Estate, and neighbours the American consulate.
Pam Golding Properties’ Laurie Wener said there was high demand for property in the area.
“The rise of property values and demand in the greater Tokai area has been dramatic over the past year.
Pollsmoor is located near top private schools such as Reddam House.
“What makes it stand out is the balance between a feel of rural living and a proximity to all the modern facilities needed for comfortable suburban living.
“Stables, mountain biking trails and Tokai Forest are close by, and so too are the upgraded Blue Route Mall and Constantia Mediclinic.”
The demand for property far outstripped availability, so that the Pollsmoor site would be desirable to developers, especially those specialising in gated communities.
“The prison stands on prime land.”
Wener said it would be impossible to give an accurate estimate of the land’s value.
“The value would be subject to the outcome of a complex feasibility study. This would take the time and cost of rezoning, something which would almost certainly be necessary, and development potential of the land into account.”
Half of Pollsmoor’s 2.5 square kilometres is home to a farm, which borders the Blue Route highway. About a quarter of the property houses a number of correctional facilities: a maximum security section, a medium security section for males, two juvenile wards, a pre-release centre and one of three female prisons in the province.
Another quarter is taken up by workshops (for skills training), a dog training unit, holiday homes, staff accommodation, sports fields, a golf driving range, tennis courts and a clubhouse/restaurant.
The prison’s most famous inmate was former president Nelson Mandela who was held there after his discharge from Robben Island, and before being transferred to Victor Verster Prison in Paarl.
Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada also spent time at Pollsmoor as political prisoners.
Reacting to the parliamentary confirmation of a possible sale, Selfe said the DA welcomed the move and the transfer of prisoners.
Pollsmoor Prison was overcrowded and the maximum security wing was crumbling, he said.
He warned, however, that a sales process should be transparent and closely scrutinised for irregularities.
“Because they (Pollsmoor and Leeuwkop) are situated in upmarket areas, the significant amount of money which will be made off its sale must be properly monitored,” he said.
“There have been too many contracts awarded by correctional services in which it is extremely dubious whether the state received value for money, leading to questions about the companies to which the contracts were awarded.”
Selfe was referring partly to the controversial catering contract awarded by the department to the Bosasa Group in 2009.
Late last year, Selfe called for the Hawks to investigate the tender award, claiming that there was sufficient evidence to suggest major irregularities.
The Department of Correctional Services confirmed receipt of Cape Argus queries about the possible Pollsmoor sale, but said it would respond at a later stage.