Thabo Bester escape: Corruption at Mangaung prison exposed again


Thabo Bester escape: Corruption at Mangaung prison exposed again

The Facebook rapist's Hollywood-style escape and subsequent arrest in Tanzania have put the South African prison system in the spotlight, but it's not the first time the Mangaung private prison has made international headlines, as ILSE SALZWEDEL recalls.

IF you didn't know who he was when GroundUp News first reported on March 15 this year that Thabo Bester, the so-called Facebook rapist and murderer, may not have died in a fire at the Mangaung Correctional Centre but in fact escaped, you would be excused. But by the time Bester and his mistress, Dr. Nandipha Magudumana, were arrested in Tanzania on 8 April, his name was on everyone's lips.

“Sensational, spectacular, insane," is how British investigative journalist Ruth Hopkins describes the escape. Sensational but no surprise, as it was Hopkins who exposed headline-grabbing irregularities at the country's first private prison in 2013 and later wrote a book about it.

The Mangaung Prison was opened with great fanfare in 2001 as South Africa's first private prison, and G4S – a company that also manages prisons in several other countries – signed a 25-year contract with the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) for its management. After all, they undertook to provide the best amenities at the lowest cost...

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