How many palms were greased? – G4S quizzed about Bester's escape

Security firm appears before parliament

Nomazima Nkosi Senior reporter
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach has raised bribery questions in the Thabo Bester saga.
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach has raised bribery questions in the Thabo Bester saga.
Image: 123RF/Ufuk Zivana

"How many palms were greased... and involved in the escape of serial Facebook rapist Thabo Bester?"

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach questioned G4S officials who appeared before parliament's justice and correctional services committee on Wednesday after being subpoenaed to appear before the committee to explain how Bester escaped from the Mangaung Correctional Centre on May 3 2022.

The security company was also questioned about why it remained adamant that it was in fact Bester who died in the fire that broke out in cell 35.

Speaking during the meeting, Breytenbach went head-to-head with G4S regional commercial director for Africa Cobus Groenewoud, who told the committee that only three employees had been suspended shortly after the incident.

Ultimately, Senohe Matsoara, who appeared before a Bloemfontein court on Tuesday on a charge of murder and aiding Bester, was dismissed on September 29.

"Are you honestly telling us this escape of Hollywood proportion was done with the assistance of only three people?

"A simple walk through your facility tells us it was a lot more. South Africans have an interest not to have serial rapists walking the streets and your job was to ensure that doesn’t happen and you failed dismally.

"Whose palms were greased?" Breytenbach questioned.

Groenewoud responded by saying that's not what they were suggesting but evidence from the prison and G4S's own investigation showed that the three employees were the only ones who did not follow simple procedure on the day.

Asked how many staff were on duty on the night/morning when the fire and subsequent escape happened, the prison's audit and risk director Gert Beyleveld said 23 staffers were on duty on the said date.

"Our investigation proved that the three people that were suspended were there," Beyleveld said.

The officials also revealed that they did not conduct lifestyle audits on their employees when asked by Breytenbach.

"So you don't think it's necessary to do lifestyle audits on your staff that keep close watch over high profile criminals who look after people with access to money and are serving time for money-related crimes," she said.

Prison director Joseph Monyante responded by saying: "We don’t see a reason to conduct lifestyle audits on our employees."

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