MPs plans meeting stakeholders over Thabo Bester escape

Members of the justice and correctional services committee will meet with department, G4S and other stakeholders over the Thabo Bester escape. Picture: AFP

Members of the justice and correctional services committee will meet with department, G4S and other stakeholders over the Thabo Bester escape. Picture: AFP

Published Mar 7, 2024


Members of Parliament are preparing for a “meeting of answers” with the Department of Correctional Services, security company G4S and other stakeholders over the escape of prisoner Thabo Bester.

This emerged when the justice and correctional services portfolio committee met on Wednesday to plan for the meeting to be held in two weeks’ time.

The planned meeting follows others held last year where the department, G4S, the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (Jics) and the SAPS were quizzed about circumstances leading to the escape of Bester from the Mangaung Correctional Centre in 2022.

During the meeting, content adviser for the committee Mpho Mathabatha listed a number of focus areas for the follow-up meeting.

Mathabatha said one of the questions to be asked was about the lifestyle audits Jics requested G4S to conduct on their officials.

“We think that the committee should find out from G4S if that has been done. If so, a detailed report must be provided to the committee. If not, the committee should be provided with reasons and ask for reasons why lifestyle audits have not been conducted,” he said.

Mathabatha also said the committee should enquire whether disciplinary proceedings were instituted against G4S officials implicated in Bester’s escape.

He said the committee should ask questions about the safety of “whistleblowers” – the prisoners Jics reported were transferred to other prisons for their safety.

“The committee should find out if the inmates are still safe and co-operating with further investigations.”

Mathabatha also said the issue of vacant cell number 35 should questioned.

Bester was reportedly placed in cell number 35. However, another prisoner was moved to make room for him, a move suggesting the cell was not vacant.

Mathabatha added that the department should explain why it did not notify the public about the escape of Bester, a dangerous prisoner, and whether there were measures put in place to address the concern and to prevent it from occurring again in the future.

ANC MP Qubudile Dyantyi said: “We want to have that meeting as a meeting of answers. We must have a quality meeting to deal with specific issues and content.”

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said they should have the same interaction they had last time when MPs engaged in a question-answer session with the stakeholders.

“I would like to indicate we have the same type of interaction we had the last time where members get an opportunity to interact with the people before the committee in an intense atmosphere, similar to the question and answer session we had the last time.

“In that sense we can’t be limiting our questions because things will arise from questions. I thought it was very effective,” Breytenbach said.

She said others to be invited should be the G4S Africa region manager, who did not attend, and Jics.

ANC MP Nomathemba Maseko-Jele said they should find out about the status of the contract with G4S and what resulted in it not being cancelled.

EFF MP Busisiwe Mkhwebane agreed that the issue about the contract should be raised.

Mkhwebane also said they should make sure that in future contracts were monitored.

Committee chairperson Bulelani Magwanishe said they would work on a date for the meeting with the stakeholders after the interviews for the Deputy Public Protector post were conducted next week.

“The main issues after the interviews will be this one. We will work on the issue of dates, send letters to the relevant stakeholders and do background secretariat work so that it does take place and is properly prepared for,” Magwanishe said.

Cape Times