The private security company G4S claims it made the police aware of alleged irregularities regarding the fire at the maximum security prison in Bloemfontein which apparently led to Thabo Bester’s escape.
The Department of Correctional Services previously confirmed that Bester, the so-called Facebook rapist and murderer, escaped from prison in May last year, and never burned to death as previously claimed by the department.
The department said last year that Bester, who was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 75 years, burned to death in his prison cell after the body of a badly charred man was found in it. The cause was initially labeled as suicide. Photos of a man who looks a lot like Bester have recently surfaced, however, while several inconsistencies have also come to light in the post-mortem report.
According to G4S, which runs the maximum security prison in Bloemfontein, he informed the department and the police about the fire at the prison and the death of a prisoner on 3 May last year.
“On 5 May, following an initial investigation, G4S notified the police of a number of concerns regarding the circumstances of the fire. The SAPS has been provided with relevant information and evidence,” G4S said in a statement.
Three prison guards were suspended shortly after the incident and dismissed in September, December and January respectively.
Many questions about escape
Media reports that the deputy minister of correctional services was aware that Bester had escaped, and then took no action, are extremely worrying, says Janho Engelbrecht, DA MP and the party’s spokesperson on correctional services.
“The DA will write to the chairman of the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services to request an urgent meeting with the management of G4S, the minister and deputy minister of justice and correctional services, and the national commissioner of the department of correctional services .”
It is imperative that the South African public be given the truth and full details of how an escape of this nature took place, how prison officers and possibly political leaders were involved, and what action was subsequently taken by correctional services and the SAPS. Engelbrecht said.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that Bester had the assistance of high-ranking officials to coordinate an elaborate escape of this nature. The identity of the prisoner who died must also be determined urgently.”
Action Society says Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola and Police Minister Bheki Cele should be held responsible for the Bester affair along with the incompetent commissioners involved. “If a skills audit is not conducted among senior managers of the relevant departments, and the G4S group is not held accountable, much worse will happen in the future,” said Kaylynn Palm, spokesperson for Action Society.
“If the DNA backlog had been sorted out and collected last year, the DNA results after the fire would have been obtained earlier. Now, ten months later, the results have emerged, once again showing Cele’s betrayal of citizens.
“Incompetent and corrupt senior officials have created an environment where organized crime can flourish. As a result, we live in a mafia state run by a gangster government.”
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