Twenty inmates escaped from custody after the truck they were being transported in was ambushed in Johannesburg. Police have provided mug shots of the men. Ten of the suspects featured. Photo: Supplied by SA Police Service

Johannesburg - The DA on Wednesday called on Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to "fully account" for the escape of 20 awaiting trial prisoners.

This after Gauteng police confirmed that 20 suspects, facing alleged crimes ranging from murder, culpable homicide and robbery, had escaped during a daring ambush by armed men.

The men were being escorted to the Johannesburg Correctional Services from the Johannesburg Magistrates' Court when the vehicle was ambushed by armed men.

The DA Shadow Minister of Police Zakhele Mbhele in a statement said reports on the escaped prisoners were concerning.

“South Africans already fear for their safety every single day. Now there are more criminals on the loose who escaped while awaiting trial.

“It is crucial that the Minister takes the country in his confidence by supplying a detailed explanation for this and how the South African Police Service (SAPS) plans to apprehend these prisoners.

Mbhele stressed that Mbalula had a duty to improve the safety of citizens and called on him to “fully account for how a prison break of this magnitude can happen".

READ MORE: Manhunt launched for 20 escaped prisoners

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini earlier confirmed the escape but said no rearrests had been made at this stage. 

Dlamini also confirmed that a "massive manhunt" had been launched for the awaiting trial prisoners, one of whom had already been sentenced to 17 years imprisonment following an armed robbery conviction.