REVIEW | Parliament’s intervention into Thabo Bester’s prison escape

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Parliament was forced to intervene in April to investigate the causes of the prison escape of convicted Facebook rapist and murderer Thabo Bester. Bester was exposed as using a charred body to disguise his escape, allegedly with the help of prison officials.

Bester and his partner Dr Nandipha Magudumana are currently facing charges together with several other prison officials for enabling the escape. They will be back in court in January.

A carefully planned escape. Like depicting a movie script. So many questions around the plot, the main characters and the supporting cast, who were involved and how was this allowed to happen.

G4S tried to outline how Bester escaped. The man known as the Facebook rapist, also convicted of murder, was moved into a single cell three days before his prison break.

G4S Director, Cobus Groenewald explained, “The distant video footage of two individuals running towards the administrative building in the early hours of that morning. the footage is distant because the cameras I believe were better placed to record that movement were near the administrative building and the boardway unit and were not working. we were unable to identify whether these individuals are G4S staff members, Mangaung prison officials, or whether they were inmates.”

ANC MP Anthea Ramolobeng said “In fact, some of the things you would have spoken to they contract one another the times don’t speak to each other. For me, it’s a pure lie, and we have a legal rep here whom there are consequences for lying to us.”

ACDP MP Steve Swart argued, “Yet he’s able to allegedly conduct a business from prison. is that not deeply concerning does the chief of G4S are you aware of the allegations around him running a business has any investigation been done.”

Some lawmakers told the Department of Correctional Services to cancel its contract with G4S.

EFF MP Yoliswa Yako said, “There’s definitely something happening and as a committee, we do need to take strict recommendations after this.”

According to the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services (JICS), responsible for monitoring prison conditions nationwide, G4S was aware since November of last year that the body in Bester’s cell did not belong to him.

It was also revealed that members of parliament had been informed that the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, and his deputy, Patekile Holomisa, had been informed of Bester’s escape as early as October last year.

JICS Head, retired Judge Edwin Cameron said in August last year that their preliminary investigation showed that the body was not that of Bester. This was based on DNA evidence and a post-mortem report.

“I’m told that we fully informed g4s about the body about the post-mortem report and DNA in early November.”

Lamola also conceded he was informed in October. Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said, “As informed it appeared that this exceeds probability or credence but it’s an investigation that is underway from themselves at JICS but there’s also investigation by the South African Police Service and the Department of Correctional Services. This left me and induced me with shock chairperson in disbelief and credibility.”

At the heart of MPs anger was the fact that Bester’s victims were not informed of his escape.

DA MP, Glynnis Breytenbach said, “You didn’t inform the public of the escape because it was catch-22 it may have alerted Bester that you were on the lookout for him and you didn’t want to compromise the investigation. Well yes, don’t you think that the public interest in this instance trumps the investigation of the police that was absolutely going nowhere until January.”

Police Minister, Bheki Cele added, “It was a public interest that when the arrest is effected that case stands against the test of time but already I don’t know why that question comes because it has been conceded that indeed in relooking at things at least the victims should have been taken on board.”

In responding to questions Lamola said he would not resign over the saga because he had executed his duties.

Lamola did however apologise to Bester’s victims and all of South Africa saying the Department of Correctional Services will take full responsibility.