G4S served with notice to terminate Mangaung correctional facility contract

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Department of Correctional Services (DCS) Minister Ronald Lamola has told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services that the department has served international security company G4S with a notice to terminate its contract.

The company was in contract with the department to run the Mangaung Correctional Facility where rapist and murderer Thabo Bester escaped last year.

“The notice to terminate follows a legal opinion that DCS had sought. It has been deemed that BCC is not suitable to continue with the contract. In line with the concession contract agreement, a termination notice for a period of 90 days has been served to BCC, and thereafter, the contract will cease to operate.

“DCS has already resumed with an internal exercise for the takeover process,” Lamola said.

The Minister told the committee that in the 2021/22 financial year, there were some 22 escapes from correctional facilities across the country.

“We are the first to acknowledge that one escape at our facilities is one too many. We will redouble our security operations to prevent escapes and deal harshly with officials who fail to adhere to Standard Operating Procedures as the National Commissioner acted yesterday in the Mthata management area where there was an escape of two inmates and one has been recaptured.

“Eight officials who were on duty on the date of the escape and did not adhere to standard operating procedures have been suspended,” he said.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe says at least two more G4S employees have been arrested in connection with Bester’s escape from prison.

“The pair will appear before the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday…on a charge of assisting an inmate to escape from lawful custody and defeating the ends of justice.

“The team investigating this case have so far arrested eight suspects and cannot rule out the possibility of effecting more arrests,” Mathe said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Correctional Services says a further two correctional officers at the Ngqeleni Correctional facility have been issued with a notice of suspension following the escape of two inmates from custody last week.

This brings to 10 the number of officials suspended following the escape.

One inmate has been rearrested with another, Athini Nothi Mzingelwa, is still at large.

DCS National Commissioner, Makgothi Thobakgale, visited Ngqeleni Correctional facility in the Eastern Cape on Monday and said the department is “confident” that the second inmate will be rearrested in a “short period of time”.

He added that the suspension of the officials involved is part of ensuring that officials account for the escapes.

“That is part of ensuring that we hold our officials responsible for the work that they are supposed to do as management of the Department of Correctional Services. We have the Correctional Services Act. We have policies. We have regulations [and] we have procedures. We have made it a point that all of our officials, especially security officials [and] custodial officials, go through training at the college. They know exactly what not to do and what to do,” he said.

Thobakgale explained that the officials went against security plans on the day that the two escaped.

“With this specific activity, there was no approval that the inmates were involved in. If you actually check the number of officials that were responsible on that day, it is against security plans that you would put in place to ensure that you don’t experience this type of escape.

“These incidents are sporadic in our correctional facilities. We are, on a daily basis, housing 156 000 more inmates. What that basically means is that we have a huge population compared to 27 000 officials – part of whom are responsible for security. In all correctional systems in the world, escapes will always be there as part of the risks that we manage.

“For the past three years, the number of escapes in South Africa has been declining – meaning that we are doing well. However, we can’t rule out instances like this one where our own officials actually do not exercise their responsibilities in a manner that they are supposed to,” he said.