The security company at the centre of “Bestergate” has three months to pack and leave the Mangaung Correctional Centre in the Free State province, said the authorities. Department of Correctional Services (DCS) spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said the termination of the G4S contract followed the obtained legal opinion.
This comes after the controversial company, which is managing the prison on behalf of the government, allowed notorious Facebook rapist and murderer Thabo Bester to fake suicide and escape in May last year. He allegedly paid its employees and officials R5 million to facilitate his daring escape while serving a lengthy jail term for rape and murder.
“The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has decided to terminate its concession contract with the Bloemfontein Correctional Centre (BCC). In line with the concession agreement, a termination notice for a period of 90 days has been given to [the] BCC, and thereafter, the contract will cease to operate.
“The notice of termination follows the announcement on 20 April 2023 by DCS that it had referred its contract with BCC for a legal opinion. It has been deemed that BCC is neither competent, nor suitable, to continue with the concession contract,” said Nxumalo.
However, it’s not clear how the authorities plan to handle the management of the prisoners serving sentences at the Mangaung correctional facility.
“BCC is contracted to operate the Mangaung Correctional Centre, a public private partnership facility. DCS will immediately resume with an internal exercise for the takeover process. The contract does lay down a procedure to be followed in this regard,” Nxumalo said.
Justice, Correctional Service and Constitutional Development minister Ronald Lamola has already briefed the parliamentary committee about the circumstances in which Bester walked free under the pretense that he had burned himself to death. It later emerged from a leaked report compiled by the head of Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Service (JICS), Edwin Cameron, that the charred body found on Bester’s cell 35 was not that of the convicted murderer.
The person had not died of smoke inhalation and was shorter than bester in body size. Police later identified the body as that of Free State man, Katlego Bereng, but could not say how it ended up in Bester’s cell. Bereng’s family is now demanding justice.
Last month, the Justice and Correctional Service committee in parliament learned that Bester had applied to be transferred to a single cell on April 30, 2022. The committee had been told that a DCS controller approved his application and three days later Bester was presumed dead from a raging fire that burned Cell 35 at the Mangaung Correctional Centre.
“On 30th April in 2022, we received an application from inmate Bester, where he was requesting to be transferred to a single cell. These single cells we normally call them Broadway.
“This was (his) own request. He was not sent there for a disciplinary hearing or whatever. Procedurally, such applications are sent to the office of the controller, a representative of the DCS, and it was approved accordingly.
“Inmate Bester was placed in Cell 35. On the 2nd May 2022, at 7:30pm, after we had done the roll count… We can confirm that all the cells were locked for the night, as well as the cell of Bester.
“The next day, which was 3rd May 2022 at 4am, fire was discovered from Cell 35. It was distinguished by the MCC trained personnel. After they distinguished the fire, the cell was cordoned off,” head of BCC Joseph Mnyanti had told the committee.
Mnyanti said various officials, including a nurse and a doctor from a private contractor had arrived shortly before 5am that day.
“The doctor examined the body and certified inmate Bester to be dead,” he said.
Attempts to obtain comment from BCC or G4S were unsuccessful.