Madeleen Charsley
Director : BLC Attorneys

The story of Thabo Bester and his dramatic and only recently uncovered “prison break” has been trending for the past couple of weeks and is a hot topic in many a conversation. Fortunately, the escapee has found himself back at prison camp.

How he managed to escape in the first instance, allegedly with inside assistance, and it only being uncovered recently, boggles the mind – especially where a body (which at the time was thought to be his) was found inside his cell and where it was clear that the deceased died of unnatural causes.

Was the autopsy only carried out a year later because prisoners and their families are not afforded the same rights as others, or is there something more sinister to this case – as it appears to be.

It has now also transpired that Thabo Bester had access to a laptop whilst in prison. Yes, while this is certainly allowed to prisoners who are registered students, strict control measures are to be complied with in order to monitor use for study purposes only. What is concerning, that opportunity to study is afforded to prisoners, and in Thabo Bester’s case, clearly an unrehabilitated prisoner, where there are so many deserving students in our country that struggle to pay fees and are not afforded an opportunity towards an education.

G4S has immediately lost its contract to run the now infamous Mangaung Correctional Centre, but surely other parties must be involved. The parliamentary inquiry is certainly giving an insight as to what actually is going down in our correctional facilities.

Questions were raised since May last year with no constructive answers being given.

What does this mean for us as a society? Yes, the operation and management of the prison are outsourced to a third party, but ultimately, the Government is responsible and holds accountability to us as citizens. We now have a convicted serial rapist on the loose.

Is it that easy to stage one’s own death and escape from prison in South Africa? How many times has this happened before? Goodness, for once load-shedding cannot be blamed.

Should the government, and in this case, the Department of Correctional Services, be entitled to delegate its services to third parties? What responsibility has been taken by the Department in controlling and monitoring privatised prisons to ensure compliance with the Correctional Services Act?

Well, at least there is now a parliamentary inquiry into this whole scandalous saga, and for sure, heads will roll – probably all the way to Mangaung.

Note: Given the rapid developments in this matter this article is updated to 13 April 2023.