“Human factors” are to blame for the recent spates of escapes from prisons.
The Department of Justice and Correctional Services briefed the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Wednesday on its 2018/19 annual performance plan.
Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Thabang Makwetla said it seemed that the escapes were due to “human factors” rather than resource shortages.
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Advocate Michael Masutha blamed ill-discipline and overcrowding for the escapes.
He said prisons were on average 37% overcrowded.
The Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal last week shot dead two suspects who had escaped from the Johannesburg Correctional Centre.
Sixteen escapees literally broke their way out of the detention centre on the morning of April 9. They made their dash through a pipe shaft‚ used an object to break the wall and then scaled the fence. A countrywide manhunt was launched to recapture the detainees – who were awaiting trial prisoners on charges that include murder‚ robbery and housebreaking.
Two suspects were spotted on April 10 on the R33 in Greytown. Police said they had opened fire on officers‚ who had returned the fire. The two men were killed. Police seized a 9mm pistol with ammunition and a toy gun.
Masutha is backing newly appointed Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser despite his bad publicity.
“I have a man with vast experience who I believe can bring to bear such valuable experience to assist us at corrections to address some of the challenges.”
Committee chairperson Dr Mathole Motshekga said on Wednesday they are holding Masutha and his deputies accountable for the escapes.
“The committee heard that the initial investigation indicated that the escapes from Pollsmoor‚ in Cape Town‚ and Johannesburg correctional facilities could not have happened without assistance‚” Motshekga said.
“They are putting the lives of law-abiding South Africans in danger.”