/ 2 May 2023

Thabo Bester saga: Correctional services terminates G4S Mangaung contract

Thabo Bester. Photo by Gallo Images/Frikkie Kapp

In the wake of the uproar surrounding the escape of convicted rapist and murderer Thabo Bester from Mangaung prison, the department of correctional services has decided to terminate its contract with Bloemfontein Correctional Services (BCC), which is part-owned by G4S.

The department announced the decision in a statement on Tuesday.

In line with its concession agreement with BCC, a 90-day termination notice has been issued to the subcontractor. Thereafter the contract will cease to operate, according to the statement.

Last month, the department announced it was seeking a legal opinion regarding its contract with BCC, which was ultimately deemed “neither competent, nor suitable to continue with the concession contract”. 

In 1998, G4S South Africa became a minority shareholder in BCC, the concessionaire company responsible for the management of the Mangaung Correctional Centre, which has most recently gained added notoriety following Bester’s escape in May 2022. 

In March 2000, the department entered into a 25-year contract with BCC to design, construct, operate, maintain and finance Mangaung prison. BCC commenced operations at Mangaung in July 2001. The contract was set to expire on 30 June 2026, after which G4S has previously said it has no plans to invest further in correctional services in South Africa. 

Last month, the department told parliament’s portfolio committee on justice that the government had — since its contract commenced with G4S up to 2022 — paid the company over R7.7 billion to manage Mangaung, as well as the Kutama Sinthumule correctional centre in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo. 

It cost the state R45 million a month to maintain the contract with G4S. The two private centres have a total of 5 952 inmates, 2 928 of them at Mangaung prison.

Bester’s escape from Mangaung exposed glaring security failures at the prison. He was allegedly aided by several G4S employees, a number of whom have been arrested in connection with the escape plot. 

The most recent arrests were made on Monday, when two dismissed former G4S employees were apprehended by Free State police. The pair will appear at the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, on charges of assisting an inmate to escape from custody, and defeating the ends of justice. 

To date, eight suspects have been arrested for being involved in the audacious escape plot, with the investigating team saying it cannot rule out the possibility of additional arrests.