Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane has defended her decision to splurge more than R60 000 of taxpayers’ money treating prisoners to a KFC meal.

This after she was photographed dishing out heaps of KFC’s Streetwise Twos to offenders at Leeuwkop Prison in Midrand on Wednesday.

The photographs, which were posted on Facebook, sent social media into a tailspin, with many criticising the decision, while others welcomed it.

On Monday, Nkosi-Malobane said she had visited the prison as part of her department’s Get Out and Stay Out (Goso) programme, which had been running for the past two years.

The programme included a soccer match, traditional dancing, a choir and poetry, and was attended by about 2000 people.

These included pupils, prison warders, department stakeholders and more than 900 prisoners, many of them convicted of raping women and children, according to Nkosi-Malobane.

KFC’s Streetwise Two costs R31.90c, which works out to R63 800 for 2 000 people.

The MEC said they had decided to buy KFC for the convicts as they would have been charged “an arm and a leg by caterers”.

“Instead of getting a caterer who was going to charge us, say, between R100 and R200 per head, we decided to get Streetwise Two instead, which is less than R50 per head.

“You must understand that the prison’s cooking schedule was also disturbed because of the programme,” she said.

It was unfortunate that people had focused on the food served on the day, she said, and not on the benefits of Goso, which was aimed at equipping offenders with crucial skills to use upon their release.

A sub-programme of Goso, titled “men as safety promoters”, had been rolled out in prisons including Leeuwkop, Benoni, Sun City (Joburg) and Kgosi Mampuru II in Pretoria. Other programmes were aimed at discouraging substance abuse and gangsterism among prison inmates.

Nkosi-Malobane defended her decision to treat the prisoners to fried chicken, saying: “It’s just two pieces of KFC, really. If it’s food that people are unhappy about, we can stop catering for these programmes, but we can’t stop the programmes at all. In any case, we can’t overspend on food because my department is very small.”

DA justice and correctional services spokesperson James Selfe criticised Nkosi-Malobane’s decision, saying: “It defeats the whole process of imprisonment.”

Cope national spokesperson Dennis Bloem said: “We have always said people in prisons are having it nice. How can the MEC spend such a large amount of money on people who have committed serious crimes against our people?

“There are law-abiding citizens who go to sleep on empty stomachs. There should be no luxuries in prison like eating KFC,” he said.