Thabo Bester Escape: G4S Contract Termination Welcome, but Does not Absolve Correctional Services

ActionSA cautiously welcomes the decision by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) to terminate the concession held by G4S to manage the Mangaung Correctional Centre.

This is a welcome step toward accountability following the escape of ‘Facebook Rapist’ Thabo Bester in May last year. DCS now has a responsibility to take South Africans into their confidence about their plans for the facility when the contract with G4S ends in 90 days.

As further revelations about the escape have emerged it has become clear that it was made possible through the complicity of several individuals. While G4S clearly failed in their mandate, the failure of DCS to provide proper oversight over the facility should not be ignored.

It is ultimately DCS – as a government department – that has a responsibility to citizens. It is unlikely that the contract would have been cancelled if the Thabo Bester-saga was not brought to light by journalists, indicating the reactive nature of DCS’s decision. How many other South African prisons are currently dysfunctional but are not receiving media attention, and thus no oversight from DCS?

South Africans are understandably concerned about the state of our correctional facilities in the wake of Bester’s escape. Yesterday, Correctional Services Minister, Ronald Lamola, admitted that in the 2021/22 financial year there were 22 escapes from South Africa prisons.

South Africa is a facing a crime pandemic. Earlier this year Police Minister, Bheki Cele, revealed that 82 people are killed in our country each day. South Africans need to have confidence in our criminal justice system. Fixing this requires a holistic, systematic response.

Restoring the Rule of Law is central to ActionSA’s plan to fix South Africa. Policing cannot be seen in isolation from Correctional Services, the prosecutorial functions of the NPA, or social services and economic policy that offers our people alternatives to crime to make a living.

ActionSA’s plans to improve Correctional Services includes:

  • Amend penal codes to ensure that repeat offenders and individuals guilty of committing violent crimes face harsher prescribed sentences.
  • Addressing the rife criminality taking place in prisons and eradicating corruption within the DCS and prison management.
  • Address South Africa’s high recidivism rate by improving conditions in prisons to allow for the rehabilitation of individuals that desire to become productive members of society.
  • Provide prisoners with the opportunity to develop skills through voluntary compensated work programmes and implement programmes of reintroducing rehabilitated individuals into the workforce.

Restoring law and order requires that all its functions – investigation, prosecution, incarceration (where applicable) and rehabilitation – must work in lockstep to put criminals behind bars and uphold the rule of law, enabling the economy to flourish.