Home South African Parliament still demands answers on Thabo Bester escape

Parliament still demands answers on Thabo Bester escape

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Members of the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services are still demanding answers from the departments of justice and correctional services and the G4S security firm over the escape of Thabo Bester.

Convicted rapist and murderer Thabo Bester in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court. File picture: Screenshot, Newzroom Afrika

MEMBERS of the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services are still demanding answers from the departments of justice and correctional services and the G4S security firm over the escape of Thabo Bester.

The committee will meet with the departments, G4S, the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services and other stakeholders over the matter.

This is a follow-up meeting to the one held in Parliament last year where the Department of Correctional Services and G4S were grilled by the committee.

In a report that was tabled before the committee on Wednesday, it lists a number of questions that members of Parliament who serve on the committee have to ask of all the stakeholders involved in the Bester escape saga.

Bester is currently on trial with Dr Nandipha Magudumana and several other people. Some officials who worked for G4S were arrested for allegedly being involved in the escape.

The chairperson of the committee, Bulelani Magwanishe, said on Wednesday that they will be meeting with the stakeholders as they still want answers on the matter.

ANC member Qubudile Dyantyi said they want facts on the table.

“We are preparing ourselves for this two-day meeting. We want this meeting to be the meeting of answers,” said Dyantyi.

Content adviser to the parliamentary committee Mpho Mathabatha gave an outline of Bester’s escape in his report, but said that when the committee meets with the stakeholders there are a number of questions that still need to be asked.

He said one of the questions that the department and G4S must answer is whether G4S has conducted lifestyle audits on its officials at the Mangaung correctional centre.

“In their report, the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services requested G4S to conduct lifestyle audits on their officials,” said Mathabatha.

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

He added that the committee must also find out if disciplinary action has been taken against those implicated in the escape of Bester.

“The committee should find out if further investigations were conducted by G4S and any disciplinary proceedings contemplated or conducted against any of their officials? What are the details of those disciplinary proceedings? The committee should also find out from G4S if their report has been amended or updated.”

The other concern that was raised at the last meeting was that the department had failed to inform the public when Bester escaped.

The committee must establish if the department has addressed this issue to avoid a repeat in future when a dangerous criminal escapes from custody.

ANC MP Nomathemba Maseko-Jele said she welcomed the report by Mathabatha. She added that they need to find out from the department about the status of the G4S contract because it was about to come to an end last year.

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said she also accepts the report that has been tabled.

She said they need to get tough with the department, G4S and other stakeholders. This would enable the committee to get answers from 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,” said Breytenbach.

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

“I think there are individuals we must call before the committee. The one is the manager for Africa Region for G4S. He was not there the last time. He was clearly the elephant in the room because if you asked questions they said he could answer.”

EFF member Busisiwe Mkhwebane said she also welcomed the report that has been presented. She said she agreed that the issue of the G4S contract must be raised.

She said they want answers on whether the department incurred any losses or whether there were penalties imposed on the contractor.

Mkhwebane said in future contracts of this nature must be closely monitored.

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