Parliament has called the Department of Correctional Services to account after 16 awaiting-trial inmates escaped from the Johannesburg Correctional Centre, Medium A prison, also known as Sun City, this week.
The 16, who escaped through a pipe shaft and broke through a wall, included murder, robbery and rape suspects.
Two of them were shot and killed in KwaZulu-Natal following an intense shoot-out with the Hawks, bringing the number still on the run to 14.
Correctional services and justice portfolio committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga called Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha and his deputy, Thabang Makwetla, to answer questions before Parliament next week.
Motshekga said the incident placed the lives of law-abiding South Africans in danger.
“We need the minister and the two deputy ministers to appear before the committee to give a full account as to what they have been doing to address the tide of breakouts.
“This has been continuing for some time and poses a great risk to the general public. It is unacceptable. The committee will also enquire about the extent to which the department has implemented policy guidelines that are clear as to what needs to be done,” said Motshekga.
He said the committee would ask accounting officers, including the executive authority, to inform Parliament of their plans to curb escapes.
“We will also enquire about investigations into what led to the escapes,” said Motshekga. At least seven of the 16 prisoners were accused of murder.
Last month six prisoners escaped from Pollsmoor prison after removing bars with a piece of metal obtained by breaking one of the beds.
DA MP James Selfe said the escapes were concerning and exposed weaknesses in the country’s prison system.
He said Parliament needed answers about the incidents to ensure greater security at correctional institutions.
“Parliament is empowered to intervene when national departments are failing to carry out their mandated duties and there appears to be a trend of prison escapes which needs to be addressed immediately,” said Selfe.
Correctional Services said it was working around the clock to ensure that the escapees were found and rearrested.
Department spokesperson Logan Maistry said: “We were immediately at the scene after this incident took place. We immediately launched an investigation, that investigation is continuing. We are working around the clock to ensure the speedy arrest of the remaining 14.”
He said the department was prepared to appear before Parliament to answer on the escapes.
“The department will appear before the committee and answers questions before Parliament. When the department is called upon by any arm of government, it complies accordingly. We account to Parliament all the time and we will continue to do so,” said Maistry.
The Saturday Star