Three Zimbabwean criminals escape from SA prison

Singabakho Nxumalo

FOUR prisoners, among them three Zimbabweans awaiting trial, are on the run after escaping from their remand holding cells at the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Services facility in Pretoria, South Africa.

The three Zimbabwean inmates identified as Morris Tyavana, Medicine Girenzi and Amos Chikwange and a South African, Sam Hlungwane, escaped from the prison cells in the early hours of Saturday under unclear circumstances.

Tyavana is wanted for armed robbery while the other three are awaiting trial for house breaking and theft.

In a statement, spokesperson for South Africa’s Department of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Singabakho Nxumalo said a manhunt had been launched in collaboration with the police.

“It is unclear how they made it out of the remand centre. However, as correctional services, we have roped in law-enforcement and they have instituted an investigation to reveal how the escapes happened,” he said.

“The Department is appealing to the public to assist with any information that may lead to their re-arrest. Those with information on the quartet’s whereabouts are urged to contact Crime Stop on 08600 10111.”

Cases of Zimbabweans escaping from South African prison cells are not new.

Last year in May, five Zimbabweans and two South Africans escaped from remand prison in Modimolle, Limpopo province.

The seven broke out of their holding cells at night during a routine service by the police and the circumstances surrounding their escape was not made available.

Philani Ndebele (Zimbabwean), Thapelo Mello (South African) and Themba Ncube (Zimbabwean) were arrested for contravening sections of the explosives Act. The other suspects were Sello Rengane (South African), who was arrested for rape, Mpho Obvious Lesese, Kenneth Shumba and Kazen Dhliwayo all Zimbabweans who were arrested for armed robbery.

In 2011, one of South Africa’s most wanted crime suspects, Bongani Moyo, a Zimbabwean escaped “under the nose” of police.

He slipped from police custody by walking out of court using crutches, along with members of the public.

Moyo was due to go on trial in Pretoria for his alleged role in 35 bank robberies. Moyo, who was alleged to be a gang leader, was arrested near Beitbridge Border Post.

His detention followed a highly publicised manhunt by South African police, who published his picture in the media. Moyo managed to escape from prison, before being rearrested.

Earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that 19 000 “low-risk” prisoners will be released on parole across the country to create more space for social distancing in prisons, which have 364 Covid-19 cases across the country.

Two inmates and two officials have since died.

The amnesty excludes inmates serving life imprisonment for crimes related to gender-based violence and sexual offences, child abuse, murder, attempted sabotage and terrorism.

Also, not eligible for parole are those declared dangerous in line with the Criminal Procedure Act, and those certified mentally ill and detained in line with the Mental Health Care Act.

Other categories include offenders who committed violations under the Domestic Violence Act, as well as those detained for armed robbery or robbery with aggravating circumstances.