Hole found in cell occupied by 12 inmates

Johannesburg - A hole has been found in a prison cell shared by 12 inmates, including two Boeremag members, correctional services said on Monday.

“This discovery was made during a surprise routine searching operation on 6 July and it is therefore incorrect at this point to state that there was an attempted escape,” spokesman Ofentse Morwane said in an e-mail.

File picture. Credit: AFP

Ofentse could not name the Boeremag members in the cell, at the Baviaanspoort prison near Pretoria, or say who the other inmates were.

“The principle of innocent until proven guilty applies here. Let's not go that route because it may compromise certain cases,” he said.

He said an internal investigation into who had dug the 10cm long and 4cm deep hole had begun.

Morwane did not comment on what tools were used.

“The investigation has necessitated that the cell be cleared and the 12 offenders are currently separated in different cells.”

The case was reported to police, but Lt-Col Khensane Magoai declined to comment.

According to the Sowetan newspaper, it was believed that Herman van Rooyen and Dirk Hanekom were the two members in the cell.

The Boeremag was an Afrikaner rightwing group that attempted to overthrow the ANC-led government and chase all non-whites out of the country.

When the first Boeremag members were arrested, others attacked the police air wing at Grand Central Airport, and blew up railway lines, bridges, and a Buddhist temple.

Twenty-six of its members were arrested, and 20 convicted of high treason by the High Court in Pretoria last year. The imposed sentences ranged from five to 48 years' imprisonment.

Van Rooyen was a member of the Boeremag's bomb squad.

He, Rudi Gouws and brothers Johan, Kobus and Wilhelm Pretorius were convicted of culpable homicide and conspiring to murder former president Nelson Mandela.

They had planted a bomb on the road Mandela was supposed to use on his way to open a rural school. The plan was thwarted when he arrived by helicopter instead.

Hanekom was the Boeremag's second-in-command and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. - Sapa