'I think at this point an apology is enough': Lamola responds to calls for him to step down over Bester's escape

Justice and correctional services minister says any officials found guilty of aiding Thabo Bester will be dealt with

20 April 2023 - 12:17
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Justice minister Ronald Lamola. File picture
Justice minister Ronald Lamola. File picture
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has warned those implicated in aiding Thabo Bester escape from prison will be held accountable.

The convicted “Facebook rapist” and murderer faked his death to escape from the Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein in May 2022. Bester was arrested in Tanzania with his partner Dr Nandipha Magudumana earlier this month.

Speaking to JJ Tabane on eNCA's Power to TruthLamola said police were investigating suspects, including officials.

“We are dealing with this internally. Whoever played the role among our officials, we are dealing with that. Even among ourselves, we are doing our own self-reflection. 

“We take responsibility and apologise to [Bester's victims and their families],” said Lamola.

There have been several calls for Lamola to resign over Bester's escape, with Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union president Zizamele Cebekhulu-Makhaza saying the blame was being shiftedbecause the failure of oversight extended beyond the department.

Lamola reiterated he would not step down over the saga, saying an apology to the public was enough. 

“An apology is enough because there are mitigating factors on this matter. We did not have the benefit of insight that we all now have at that time. Second, this is not a straightforward escape. It had different permutations, as and when it happens.”

He previously told parliament's justice and correctional services portfolio committee looking into the escape he would not step down.

“I won’t resign because I did what I had to do. You will have heard even [the] judge, that as he informed me, he didn’t inform with certainty that Bester escaped. He said it must be investigated, that is why I immediately called the national commissioner.”

A second G4S security guard was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly helping Bester escape.

Buti Masukela, 51 was arrested at the Mangaung Correctional Centre and appeared in the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court on Thursday where he was remanded until May.

He joins Magudumana, her father Zolile Sekeleni, former G4S prison warder Senohe Matsoara and ex-CCTV technician Teboho Lipholo in connection with Bester's escape.

Police spokesperson Brig Athlenda Mathe said the guard faces a charge of assisting an inmate escape and defeating the ends of justice.

Police minister Bheki Cele said police will leave “no stone unturned” until those implicated are brought to book.

“What has become clear is the investigation will have to go much deeper, much higher and sideways. Everything is going to be investigated, there will be no stone left unturned,” said Cele.

“We believe, by the look of things, that many people will have to answer on this matter. As the investigation continues you will expect more people will be arrested.”

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