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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

G4S insists Mangaung ‘one of most secure’ SA prisons, despite Thabo Bester blunders

Bester escaped from the Mangaung prison after it was initially believed he had committed suicide by setting himself alight in his cell.

G4S, the company responsible for security at the Mangaung Correctional Centre where convicted murderer and rapist Thabo Bester escaped, has been grilled by Parliament.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, correctional services staff, Saps and G4S were in Parliament on Wednesday to account for the Thabo Bester prison escape debacle.

The presentation detailing events leading up to Bester’s escape was delivered by G4S Director Cobus Groenewoud, Mangaung Correctional Centre (MCC) Director Joseph Monyante and Audit and Risk Director Gert Byleveld.


G4S apologised for their absence last week. Groenewoud said they could not appear before Parliament earlier as they would have been “legally barred”.

“We have the greatest respect for this committee and sincerely regret that we were not in a position to attend until now.  

“We are grateful to the committee for the summons we received on 7 April 2023, which provide us with the opportunity for meaningful and lawful participation in today’s meeting,” he said.

Three investigations

Groenewoud’s presentation looked into three investigations commissioned into Bester’s escape, including Saps criminal investigation, Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services’ (JICS) independent investigation into an unnatural death and the MCC’s compliance investigation.

Groenewoud told Parliament that it was G4S that alerted the police of a strange petrol smell coming from Bester’s cell and that his death was still considered suicide.

He said the CCTV system was fully functional except for the cameras in the broadway unit, which housed Bester and the administrative building

“There is distant video footage of two individuals running towards the administration building in the early hours of that morning. We were unable to identify whether these individuals are G4S staff members or whether they were inmates.”

ALSO READ: WATCH LIVE: G4S explains Thabo Bestor’s prison escape blunder to Parliament

WATCH: Thabo Bester timeline of crime

Single cell for Bester and fire

Monyante said on 30 April 2022, Bester requested to be put in a single cell for his ‘own safety’ and it was approved.

Monyante said on 3 May, a fire was discovered in Bester’s cell which was extinguished.

“A doctor [from Faranani Life] arrived to examine the body and certified the death of inmate Bester.”

He said Saps forensic team removed the body to the state mortuary for a post-mortem.

“Once Saps completed its examination, they returned to the cell… and retrieved the deceased’s possessions, an authorised laptop and cellphone were retrieved.”

G4S grilled

During the question and answer, ANC MP Anthea Ramolobeng said the G4S report is “whitewash” and the security company was trying to exonerate itself.

“There’s no accountability, to say, ‘here we erred, this is our mistake’.”

Ramolobeng says an inmate wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa about the events of Bester’s escape and “G4S said in an email the letter should not be entertained”.

Monyante said the letter was not supposed to be emailed to the president, but had to be sent via a prepaid envelope. He says the letter had nothing to do with the Bester matter.

G4S said Mangaung Correctional Centre has been “one of the most secure correctional centres in SA over the past 22 years”, adding that they have had only three escapes, including Bester’s.

Bester’s re-arrest

After more than nine months on the run, Bester and his ‘wife’ Dr Nandipha Magudumana, were nabbed in Tanzania over the weekend.

The “Bonnie and Clyde” couple were arrested alongside Mozambican national Zakaria Alberto, who was “assisting” them in their cross-border escape.

ALSO READ: Thabo Bester: Pic of one of two of Dr Pashy’s passports found in Dr Nandipha’s luggage

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