Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says he will not resign from his job over the Thabo Bester saga, but he apologised and said he takes full responsibility for what transpired.
He said while the Mangaung prison was under the control of G4S, the Department of Correctional Services had a duty to ensure inmates were kept inside until they had completed their sentences.
Lamola said they also apologised for Bester’ escape as this was not supposed to have happened.
The ministers of justice and police were briefing the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services in Parliament on Thursday on investigations into Bester’s escape.
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach asked Lamola if he would resign from his job after what happened.
ACDP MP Steve Swart also raised concern that the department had failed to alert Bester’s victims that he was out.
Members of the committee said the Department of Correctional Services should have let the public know as early as last year when they had become aware of the escape.
They said the fact that Inspecting Judge of Prisons Edwin Cameron told Lamola via email and telephonically that Bester had escaped, there should have been action at the time.
Police Minister Bheki Cele and police top management also came under fire for not acting swiftly and arresting Bester when they were aware that he had escaped.
Cele said there were still investigations at the time and one was to verify that the escapee was indeed Bester as he had no ID.
On whether he would resign from his position, Lamola said he would not.
“On your question on whether I will resign or not. I am not going to resign because I did what I was supposed to do and you have even heard the judge (Cameron) that he informed me.
“He was not informing me with certainty that Bester has escaped,” Lamola said.
“He said there is a suspicion that is investigated by the SAPS, the Department of Correctional Services, including the inspecting judge, which immediately I called the national commissioner to say ‘national commissioner I was on a call with the inspecting judge.
“There are the issues, he is saying that this thing is unbelievable. But it comes from a judge. You need to act on it, which is what I was supposed to do and we have done it,” said Lamola.
He took full responsibility for what happened.
When Cameron told him about this, Lamola said he was shocked to the core.
They needed to have all investigations conducted against Bester to be sped up to get to the bottom of what happened.