Questions are being raised about the security of the Pollsmoor Correctional Facility after six inmates escaped from Medium B5 of the prison at 10pm on Sunday night. Five of the men, aged between 21 and 25, have since been apprehended in Kalksteenfontein, Blackheath, Stellenbosch and Ocean View. The only outstanding escapee is 20-year-old Siphenathi Ntansisofrom Kraaifontein, who was serving a four year sentence for rape. The six escaped after using their metal bed posts to break the grills of their cell.
With an unmanned guard post some ten meters from the scene of the escape and a non-operational electric fence, South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) spokesperson Jabu Mahlangu said the prison’s compromised security detail is cause for concern.
“What is of great concern is that on the day on which the electric fence was off there was an escape. It raises a question; was it a coincidence or was it an accident? Someone should really explain,” Mahlangu stated.
Mahlangu said that prison officials need to provide clarity on how the offenders had access to equipment that is able to cut though metal.
He said the fact that the incident occurred on the day that the electric fence was not active should be raised.
“They were supposed to be vigilant [and] put in place extra measures to ensure that the fact that electricity had been switched off at the fence, that they had put [in place] more physical security so that no such thing happened.
“People that are walking into prison, they know that those people can be dangerous. Surely, they should have been tested at the time they came into prison. You don’t just look at people’s faces; you look at the environment and security threats,” he added.
Mahlangu asserts that a lapse in leadership and management of the facility needs to be addressed.
“The person who knew the [fence] was off and failed to take the necessary decision to beef up security, who is that person? The heads must fall…”
But Pollsmoor spokesperson Lewies Davids, ascribes the incident to a shortage of staff.
The B5 unit houses about 139 offenders, which Davids said is monitored by one member after the day patrol leaves at 14h00, when all offenders are under lock-down.
The patrolman “makes a round” every hour.
“The guard post is not operational. You must understand that this happened on a Sunday evening and we are short-staffed,” Davids explained.
Davids said that the patrolman is mandated to call for reinforcement from standby members in the event that an incident occurs.
With regards to the non-operational electric fence, he noted that while the upgrades are still underway, all zones have not been electrified at this stage.
“That was a breach from the side of the system and we do apologise for that. But, it was not operational, because of the contractor and government is taking so long to get things sorted.”
The regional commissioner has since called for a commission of inquiry to determine how the offenders were able to escape.
The inquiry is expected to uncover who was responsible for security checks at the facility over the last few weeks.
“In actual fact, week after week, there are inspections to check if the grills are working properly. You must test it with a steel hammer to feel if grills are working. So they are going to go down hard on security issues at the centre,” Davids elaborated.
WATCH: VOC News reporter Thakira Desai visited the prison and the scene of the escape on Monday morning.
Six youth offenders have escaped from Medium B of the Pollsmoor Correctional Facility on Sunday night. The offenders, aged between 21 and 25, escaped after breaking the burglar bars of their cell with metal pipes from their bed posts. One of the offenders was serving four years for rape. VOC News reporter Thakira Desai Jaffer visited the prison this morning.
Posted by Voice of the Cape Radio – VOC on Monday, 12 March 2018