Temporary manager appointed at Mangaung prison after Thabo Bester escape
National commissioner for correctional services Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale has appointed a temporary manager at the Mangaung Correctional Centre after the “embarrassing” Thabo Bester debacle, which he said “undermined the authority of the state”.
The department of correctional services (DCS) provided updates from the facility on Thursday morning.
Bester escaped from the centre on May 3 2022, the department confirmed, after it was initially believed he had committed suicide by setting himself alight in his cell.
Security company G4S insisted Bester died in the fire, but confirmed it had dismissed three employees in relation to their conduct on the day.
Thobakgale detailed the outcomes of an investigation carried out by the department. It found that: “The director of the Mangaung correctional services centre has lost effective control of the centre.
“Among other factors, the Correctional Services Act does provide for a mechanism to restore safety and security by taking control of the facility by means of appointing a temporary manager.
“This will mean that this temporary manager will perform the functions of the director. In this instance I have appointed Mr Patrick Ali Mashabathakga as the temporary manager of the Mangaung correctional facility.”
Thobakgale confirmed Bester was assisted in his escape despite G4S's previous assertions. To this end, the director of contract management based at the department's head office, the DCS controller at Mangaung and deputy controller had been suspended.
“And also as a result, the departmental investigation unit has started looking into the conduct of the three officials and any other officials,” he said.
“I have appointed Ms Gladys Rantente to be the serving controller on behalf of the department at Mangaung.”
Thobakgale also confirmed the department had deployed a “track-and-trace team to look for Bester” and appealed to those with any information to come forward.
His announcement comes as the justice and correctional services committee confirmed it will meet the department on Tuesday to discuss the matter.
Committee chairperson Bulelani Magwanishe said: “At this stage the committee is only aware of the information that it gathered from media reports about the alleged death in a fire of the inmate, which is now alleged to have been a scam with the new allegations that he escaped from Manguang Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein.”
He added that the committee has not been briefed by the correctional services department regarding this very serious allegation.
Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.
PODCAST | Thabo Bester is a 21st century headache for correctional services
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.