C-Max jail break ‘an inside job’

Date: 21 Nov 2006
There is no way suspected murderer and rapist Ananias Mathe, 29, could have escaped from C-Max prison without “some collusion” with prison guards. Minister of Correctional Services Ngconde Balfour, speaking on a national radio programme yesterday, said “Nobody can just take off handcuffs… and nobody takes notice of that.” Balfour called for action to be taken, saying: “There must be some investigation and people charged for that (colluding with Mathe).” Balfour said checks were to be done on “everybody who was there or who was supposed to be there or who was not there, probably purposely”. He would even employ polygraph tests to get to the bottom of the break-out. It is believed Mathe uncuffed himself from wrist and ankle cuffs, covered his body in petroleum jelly, broke a hole in the wall around the bullet-proof window in his cell, and squeezed himself through the 20cm by 60cm opening. He then allegedly abseiled down the prison walls, stoping to write “f*** you” on the wall. In the section where Mathe was housed prisoners are locked up for 23 hours a day in a cell covered with wire mesh, so warders can see inside at all times. The incident at X-Max took place just days after new, improved security measures for the festive season had been introduced. Opposition parties have slammed the escape, calling on the Minister to appoint more competent prison officials and warders. Golden Miles Bhudhu of the SA Prisoners’ Organisation for Human Rights said they were “not surprised,” about the C-Max escape. He believes it was an “inside job”. C-Max has been the focus of attention in numerous controversies. In 1999 prison officials confirmed they were using “stun belts” during the transport of certain inmates. In 2001 Amnesty International pointed out such belts were internationally regarded as “torture equipment”. In 2004 three C-Max prisoners escaped in a car they had stolen, wearing departmental uniforms. A gun had been smuggled in for the men who held a warder hostage before making their escape. In 2005 five inmates tried to escape from the prison. In the same year Balfour, responding to a question in Parliament on escapees from another prison, said: “We are winning the war. The war on violence, escapees, and safety in our correctional centres. By Christelle du Toit The Citizen 21/11/06