18/03/2013. Bongani Moyo appeared at the Pretoria High Court. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - He escaped from custody three times because jail was “not nice”, self-confessed bank robber Bongani Moyo told the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Moyo, 30, and fellow Zimbabwean Khumbulani Sibanda, 32, were found guilty earlier this week on 15 charges including racketeering, bank robbery and escape.

They admitted to robbing six banks in Pretoria, Rustenburg, Boksburg and Roodepoort in April and May 2011, after escaping from prison with the help of warders in March that year.

Moyo is already serving sentences of 14 and three years' imprisonment for illegal possession of a firearm, and escape from custody at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court and the Pretoria Central prison.

Sibanda is serving sentences of 30 and 15 years' imprisonment for two previous armed robberies, including a bank robbery.

Moyo initially testified that he and Sibanda planned a series of armed bank robberies while they were in jail together, but later insisted the planning took place only after they had escaped.

“In jail it is not nice. If I have the co-operation of someone who would help me, I would co-operate,” he said.

He assured the court that he would not escape again “because he'd shown remorse about what he did”.

“I decided I'd rather face up to the bad news,” he said.

Asked if he thought of himself as someone who could be trusted, Moyo told the prosecutor: “You cannot trust me, but I trust myself.”

Moyo became tearful when he told the court he shared the pain of the bank tellers and customers who were robbed at gunpoint.

“I pleaded guilty because what I've done is very wrong.

“Speaking about this reminds me what happened and it makes me feel pain inside.

“I think the victims and I feel the same way. I think it is also painful in their hearts, like it is painful in my heart and also for my family,” he said.

Moyo said he had grown up in poverty in Zimbabwe, where his disabled son and his daughter still lived with his sister.

He testified that he had decided to rob banks to provide for his family because he could not find any job, aside from picking peaches, in South Africa.

Sibanda said he was a widower who supported three children and two of his siblings, who were still at school.

He said he realised the robbery victims had been traumatised and he would ask their forgiveness if he ever came across them.

Moyo and Sibanda expressed enthusiasm for getting further training in prison and for finding jobs on their release.

Sibanda said he planned to become “more patient” and to work for a living when he returned to society.

“I've learnt that crime does not pay because the very people I intended to help, I've left behind without help,” he said.

Sibanda testified that the police had shot dead a teacher who was renting a room on the property where he lived when they came looking for him.

He said he had applied for asylum status in South Africa, though the South African authorities had no record of his presence in the country. - Sapa