Lindela centre guards who reportedly downed tools, leading to mass escape, have nothing to answer for yet

The guards who were reportedly on duty on the day 37 illegal immigrants escaped from Lindela have not been criminally charged.
The guards who were reportedly on duty on the day 37 illegal immigrants escaped from Lindela have not been criminally charged.
Image: File / Iavan Pijoos

The seven guards from the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp who allegedly abandoned their posts, leading to 37 undocumented migrants escaping two weeks ago, have no case to answer to for now, said the NPA.

The group had been expected to appear in the Krugersdorp magistrate’s court on Tuesday after they handed themselves over to police last week. They were released after they were charged with aiding an escape.

“The case docket against seven security officials based at the Lindela Repatriation Centre was not placed on the roll at the Krugersdorp magistrate's court due to insufficient evidence,” said the NPA’s Phindi Mjonondwana.

“The docket has been referred back to SAPS, with instructions of investigations that must be conducted. Once those investigations are concluded, the docket will be brought back to the NPA for a decision,” she added.

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi had visited the centre after the escape earlier this month and hinted at it being an inside job.

Motsoaledi said before the escape, migrants had embarked on a riot, demanding that they be deported. They had been at the centre since the repatriation process was halted by the lockdown in March.

“During that riot, the security guards, who are at loggerheads with their company, started taking photos, showing this so-called overcrowding. I say ‘so-called’ because Lindela has a capacity of 4,000 and at the moment of the riot, there were only 1,574 people there.” ​

“On Sunday, the guards tipped off [the detainees] that ‘we are going to leave early, you can do what you want’. That is the information that we got. And indeed the guards left at 2pm, claiming there was no contract with their employer that says they must leave later. That is what they are claiming, but it was the first time that they left work at 2pm.

“At 5pm, the people started climbing over the walls and escaping. It was not really a secret.”

Motsoaledi said security guards in the camera room witnessed the escape.

“But because there were very few guards there, they were overpowered. The police were called in, but by that time 37 people had already left.”

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