By Daniel Steyn, James Stent and Marecia Damons, GroundUp
A temporary manager has been appointed for the maximum security prison in Bloemfontein from which the so-called Facebook rapist and murderer, Thabo Besterescape it.
This follows after Makgothi Thobakgale, national commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, on Thursday gave the go-ahead to the private security company G4S, which has been running the prison in question for years.
Thobakgale says the decision comes after it was confirmed that Bester escaped from prison, and never burned to death as previously claimed.
“This step is necessary after the state has been embarrassed and its authority undermined,” he said during a press conference at the prison in Mangaung.
Patrick Ali Mashabathakga was appointed as interim manager. Johan Theron, managing director of the prison, and Derrick de Klerk, acting director of the prison, were previously in charge.
Mangaung Maximum Security Prison is the second largest private prison in the world. It is operated and partly owned by the multinational security company G4S through a South African subsidiary. The prison was opened in 2001 and a 25-year contract was awarded to G4S to operate it as part of a consortium.
According to Thobakgale, the department’s investigation into Bester’s escape found that the director of the prison “effectively lost control of the facility”.
The investigators concluded that Bester’s escape was “well planned and organised”.
On the day of Bester’s alleged death and eventual escape, a private vehicle entered the prison gate without a valid entry permit. Investigators suspect that the vehicle transported the body, which later charred in Bester’s cell.
The result of the DNA analysis of the charred body has already confirmed that it is not Bester’s remains.
According to Thobakgale, the prison’s CCTV was apparently also tampered with.
“It is clear that someone helped Bester escape from legal custody on May 3 last year. Yet the contractor insists he died in his cell. This is contrary to overwhelming scientific evidence available,” he said.
“The investigation also indicates that the prison’s security measures have been compromised beyond any reasonable doubt.”
Three officials, including the director of contract management at the department’s head office, and two other custodians have already been suspended for their alleged involvement in the case.
“We have put together a team that is working hard to track down Bester, so we are calling on the public to come forward with any information or clues,” said Thobakgale.
“We are confident that we will arrest the fugitive and bring him to justice.”
This is not the first time that G4S’s control over the prison in question has been taken away.
In 2013, the department stepped in and placed the prison under administration after weeks of unrest during which a warden was taken hostage by the prisoners. The prisoners protested against the guards’ treatment of them.
In August 2014, G4S’s control was restored after the department was satisfied that the “issues that led to the takeover of the prison had been resolved”.
The department recently announced that it will not extend its contract with G4S beyond 2026. However, G4S already indicated in 2019 that it would withdraw from the management of the prison after its contract.
- This report was originally posted on GroundUp and is used here with permission.
Leave a Reply