YOLANDE DU PREEZ
EVEN before he is tried on more than 26 bank robbery charges, serial jailbreaker Bongani Moyo will have spent a long time behind bars just for escaping from custody.
Moyo is serving a 14-year jail sentence after escaping from police cells in Joburg in 2008. Yesterday, he was sentenced to an additional three years’ imprisonment for his unlawful escape from the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court in August last year.
In January, Moyo pleaded not guilty to the charges, claiming he had fled because detective Fritz Erasmus had threatened to kill him. Moyo has several cases pending against him, including another unlawful escape charge following his failed attempt to escape from Pretoria Central Prison in March.
Two weeks ago, a Johannesburg Regional Court magistrate sentenced Moyo to 10 years in jail for escaping from lawful custody in 2008, three years for possession of an unlicensed firearm and another year for illegal possession of ammunition.
In closing arguments yesterday, State prosecutor Werner Gibson argued that Moyo had shown no remorse for his actions and unnecessarily put the court through a lengthy trial.
He asked the court to impose the maximum sentence of three years and for the sentence not to run concurrently with the 14 years Moyo is already serving.
“Imposing the maximum sentence will send a strong message to offenders and will uphold the trust the community places in the courts,” Gibson said.
Moyo’s lawyer, Donald Somo, argued that his client (at the time) had never been incarcerated before and the only thing he knew to do when his life was threatened was to flee.
Moyo, who is labelled as one of SA’s most notorious escapees, previously told the court that Erasmus – who is currently on suspension following the escape – wanted him to identify a suspect who was not known to him and said he would kill him if he did not do so.
Two of Moyo’s co-accused allegedly involved in more than 26 bank robberies in and around Pretoria previously testified as State witnesses and told the court Moyo was not shackled or cuffed on the day of his escape as he was on crutches.
Magistrate Len Muller said the court would take into account that Moyo is a single father of two children, aged seven and 10 years.
He said the court found that Erasmus was a credible witness. He was not evasive during questioning and did not contradict himself when cross-examined.
Muller said the testimonies of Moyo’s co-accused were full of contradictions, and when questioned about that, they became restless and vague.
He stressed that escaping from lawful custody was a very serious offence. “Police officers are already burdened with heavy workloads as the crime rate in this country is exceptionally high. You have already been incarcerated for a very serious offence and face several serious charges, including resisting arrest and armed robbery.
“The court sees you as an offender who showed no remorse and who tried to lie to the court,” Muller said.
After sentencing, Somo requested the court to apply for leave of appeal. The case was postponed to Tuesday.
Moyo was due to appear in the Correctional Services Prison Court today for his escape from Pretoria Central Prison.
The trial for his robbery charges will start on March 11 next year in the Pretoria High Court.
Chester Mpane, deputy director for media and communications at the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, said the maximum sentence for escape from lawful custody was 20 years in a regional court and three years in a district court.
He said Moyo’s 14-year sentence in Joburg was given in a regional court, but the sentencing remained at the discretion of the magistrate.