Special Task Force
ASSISTANCE: CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: ST ALBANS:
PORT ELIZABETH: 1997-02-10 TO 1997-02-12: SPECIAL
On 1997-02-10 at 12:15 the Special Task Force received
a call from Senior Superintendent John Best, of POP,
Port Elizabeth to assist during a hostage situation
which had arisen at St Albans Prison, Port Elizabeth.
Six hostages were held by 55 prisoners with 2 pistols
and other sharpened weapons.
A total of 40 Special Task Force members were mobilized
from Special Task Force, Pretoria and Special Task
Force, Cape Town. All the members were transported
by air transport to Port Elizabeth.
On their arrival at St Albans members attended a
briefing. The briefing was elucidated through videos,
photographs and plans of the building.
After the briefing the plan was explained to members
and members were divided into several groups.
The groups took in their appointed positions.
At 03:00 the Special Task Force was given permission
to act. The members positioned themselves right in
front of the entrance route. The persons holding the
hostages suspected that the Police had begun to take
action and informed one another by whistling. The
Special Task Force members then withdrew.
Planning commenced anew, and this led to new needs
arising. An additional 5 Special Task Force members
departed from Pretoria to Port Elizabeth with the
A joint JOC meeting was held on 1997-02-11 at 18:00.
The persons holding the hostages demanded the following:
11 vehicles, food, lights, a telephone and a lawyer.
They were granted the following: food, lights, a telephone
and a lawyer.
The leader made no concessions. The lawyer was involved
in the negotiations. The lawyer led the leader by
giving him confidential information. The lawyer was
withdrawn from the conference table when it became
evident that he was unwilling to help release the
The National Commissioner of Correctional Services
decided, following the discussions of the lawyer with
the leader, that members should not take action, as
there was a small possibility that the hostages would
be released in the morning. Entry could, therefore,
wait for yet another day.
The Commissioner was persuaded to change his decision
because the present time would be the most effective
for launching a successful operation and that the
leader was not even prepared to release one hostage
to reflect his honourable intentions. The Commissioner
gave his approval for the action to continue in the
At 02:00 the members advanced towards various entrance
routes and took action at 03:25.
The hostages were rescued into safety within 40 seconds.
All five of them were unharmed. Members of the Special
Task Force then withdrew. Correctional Services and
members of POP ensured that the cells were safe and
The outcome was as follows:
- Five hostages were rescued.
- One prisoner died.
- One prisoner was wounded.
- Two steel doors were shot open.
- The locks of various store doors had
The SAPS suffered no losses.