Special Task Force applauded for Mangaung Prison drama

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pretoria - National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele has applauded the Special Task Force who rescued three prison wardens who were held hostage at the Mangaung Prison in Bloemfontein in the early hours of this morning.

The 25 prisoners, who set alight at least two cells and barricaded themselves in a section, were armed with an array of home made weapons, including porcelain shards from broken toilet seats, glass shards, sharpened broomsticks and a knife.

After all negotiations were exhausted without the release of the hostages, the Special Task Force assisted by the Free State SAPS Crime Combating Unit intervened resulting in the 25 prisoners being taken into custody.

"Police will continue to squeeze the space for criminals to zero. We will throw fear to criminals and bring confidence to communities. We will forever encourage police officers to act decisively in all crime combating operations and only open fire when under threat", said Cele.

Cele said the fact that a large group of prisoners armed with a variety of weapons and obviously hell-bent on making mischief could be arrested without a shot being fired is testimony to the expertise and diligence of the officers.

Police are investigating charges of kidnapping, robbery, malicious damage to property and arson.

The inmates were demanding to be transferred to prisons close to their hometowns.

The Department of Correctional Services has condemned the incident.

Spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga told BuaNews, earlier that the inmates' behaviour did not justify a transfer to a medium security prison.

"We will obviously work in the spirit of a human rights culture of trying to understand their challenges, their difficulties, what it is they want to communicate to us, but of course we will not be held to ransom by criminals," Mbananga said.