PARLIAMENT, April 20 – Ten of the sixteen inmates who escaped from the Johannesburg Correctional Centre, more popularly known as Sun City, last week, are still on the run, MPs were told on Thursday.
Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, acting national commissioner for corrections Mandla Mkabela said following the escape on April 9, two of the escapees were killed in a shoot-out with police in KwaZulu Natal, and another four arrested.
“The department has already taken steps to tighten security, including a high level investigation into the serious security breach, as ordered by the minister of justice and correctional services,” said Mkabela.
“In collaboration with the South African Police Service and other law enforcement agencies, we are working around the clock to ensure the speedy arrest of the remaining 10 escapees.”
The 16 escapees, most of them jailed for rape, robbery and murder, broke through a wall inside the prison before escaping.
“As instructed by Minister Masutha, we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the culprits, be they officials, inmates or any other person be brought to book…”
The jailbreak followed another daring escape from Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town last month. In that case all the escapees were arrested within 36 hours, said Mkabela.
Mkabela said while these escapes were unacceptable, the department had managed to foil several escapes over the past few years.
Between April 1, 2016 and March 31 this year there were 80 attempted escapes “which we foiled”, he said.
The number of escapes per year had dropped dramatically in the last two decades, according to the correctional services statistics.
According to Mkabela, there were 1,244 escapes in 1995. During the 2016/17 financial year the number had dropped to 50.
“The majority of inmates who escaped over the years have been rearrested. Most correctional officials are hardworking and should be commended for the services they deliver to the citizens of the country under the difficult circumstances,” he said.
“We know that there are few unscrupulous officials who themselves are criminals…who sacrifice noble goals for a safer and secure South Africa for a quick buck on the altar of greed.”
He said during the 2015/16 financial year, 34 correctional officers were charged and found guilty of corrupt activities, while 118 were dismissed during the same period. The following financial year, 37 officials were charged and convicted of corruption.
“We are not only investigating, disciplining and dismissing such officials, but they are being criminally investigated,” Mkabela added.