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Temporary Manager appointed for Mangaung prison

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Mangaung Prison

Following the daring escape of convicted murderer and rapist, Thabo Bester, from the Mangaung Correctional Centre in the Free State, Correctional Services National Commissioner, Makgothi Thobakgale, has announced the appointment of a Temporary Manager for the facility.

Patrick Ali Mashabathakga has been named as the Temporary Manager for the facility with immediate effect.

G4S is the contractor of the privately run Mangaung maximum-security prison, where Bester was serving his sentence.

Thobakgale said Mashabathakga is an official from the Department of Correctional Services. He was appointed to the post of Temporary Manager according to the prescripts of the Correctional Services Act.

Addressing media at Mangaung prison on Thursday morning, Thobakgale said the department has invoked section 112 of the Correctional Services Act, read with clause 55 of the Concession Contract.

“This is a necessary remedy following this embarrassing incident, which has undermined the authority of the State. The contractor (G4S) has been informed of the decision.

“The findings of the report [on Thabo Bester’s prison escape] points to the fact that the Director of Mangaung Correctional Centre has lost effective control of the facility, and the Correctional Services Act does provide for a mechanism to restore safety and security by taking control of the correctional centre by means of appointing a Temporary Manager,” Thobakgale said.

Thobakgale said the Temporary Manager will perform the functions of the Director.

“The contractor has been duly informed of this decision. Mr Mashabathakga will be supported by other officials that I have appointed in order to ensure that the Mangaung correctional facility is able to render the required services without experiencing shortcomings.

Mangaung Prison

“Restoring control and prudent management systems are key priorities in the effective running of a correctional facility.

“Critical to this is the enforcement of standard operating procedures where rules and regulations are aligned towards humane treatment, safety and security of inmates, officials and service providers,” Thobakgale said.

Thobakgale explained that it is necessary that an intervention of this nature be undertaken due to a number of security breaches and other disturbing practices identified by the investigation report on Thabo Bester.

“When compounded with the post-mortem and DNA sequencing results, it becomes vividly clear that as Correctional Services, we are dealing with a well calculated and organised escape debacle,” Thobakgale said.

He said the South African Police Service is continuing with investigations with regard to Bester’s escape.

“Thabo Bester was assisted to escape from lawful custody on 3 May 2022, yet the contractor maintains that he died in his cell. This is contrary to overwhelming scientific evidence available,” Thobakgale said.

Thobakgale said a private vehicle was allowed inside the facility without a gate pass on the day of the escape, possibly carrying an unknown body that was burnt beyond recognition in cell 35.

“Tampering with surveillance cameras points to a failed monitoring system deliberately orchestrated to conceal crucial evidence and individuals who aided Bester to escape.

“This is also a failure to guarantee safe custody of inmates and a breach in terms of the responsibilities allocated to the contractor,” Thobakgale said.

Bester was thought to have died in his prison cell back in 2022, but it was confirmed he escaped from Mangaung prison last year. – SAnews

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