14/03/2012 Escapee Bongani Moyo is brought into a press conference under heavy guard following his escape from Pretoria Central Prison Picture : Sizwe Ndingane

Pretoria - For serial jailbreaker Bongani Moyo, 2012 has certainly had its ups and downs, with a failed escape attempt from Pretoria Central Prison and a further sentence of 17 years for two previous escapes.

The notorious escape artist made headlines in March when he and two fellow inmates broke out of prison after overpowering security guards, in a scene reminiscent of the popular TV series, Prison Break.

With a string of alleged crimes and escape attempts, Moyo has spent many a day in shackles and handcuffs and is under constant watch.

Moyo, 29, and his three co-accused Leon Ncube, 28, Khumbulani Sibanda, 37, and his cousin Thabane Sibanda, 32, were arrested in May last year after they became known as SA’s most wanted men for carrying out several daring bank robberies.

Their photographs - taken from CCTV footage - were published in newspapers countrywide. It was suspected that they were involved in more than 26 bank robberies. They were arrested during a raid at a house in Orange Grove.

Moyo, who had previously escaped from custody in Boksburg, created a stir when he managed to escape from the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court in August last year.

After briefly appearing in court on the robbery charges, Moyo, who was on crutches for an injury sustained during his previous escape in Boksburg, simply downed his crutches, picked up a pile of documents, bowed to the magistrate and casually walked out of court.

However, he was re-arrested in Hillbrow a week later, caught with two other Zimbabwean nationals apparently sleeping in a VW Kombi outside a Hillbrow block of flats.

It was said Moyo burst into tears when officers woke and cuffed him.

He again attempted to escape from Pretoria Central prison on March 14. He is currently serving his 17-year jail term at the prison and is awaiting the start of his robbery trial in the Pretoria High Court in March next year.

Pretoria News reported at the time that the escape was believed to have occurred after Moyo, along with bank robbery co-accused Khumbulani Sibanda and fellow Zimbabwean and suspected armed robber Themba Dube, who broke a leg in the escape, overpowered the guards who had fallen asleep while the trio were exercising.

It is suspected that Moyo cut through their shackles with a hacksaw blade before overpowering the guards. According to one of the guards, they tried to grab the gate key, but a warder threw it into the passage which was inaccessible to Moyo and his accomplices.

The three made a makeshift rope from washing and prison uniforms, climbed up steps to the courtyard toilet, through the toilet window, between the bars and windows of the cells bordering the exercise yard, past an empty guard tower, up a barbed-wire fence, on to the prison roof, before they jumped down the outside prison wall and climbed over two palisade fences.

Alarm was raised by a newspaper vendor who works outside the prison. He said he saw the three men jump off the roof and watched as the men were arrested moments later.

In June, 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.

A week later, magistrate Len Muller sentenced him to a further three years for his escape from the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.

At the start of his trial in January, he pleaded not guilty to the charges, claiming he fled because detective Fritz Erasmus, the investigating officer, had threatened to kill him. “I did it, but there were conditions,” he said.

In closing arguments on the day of his sentencing, 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 was already serving.

Muller stressed that escaping from lawful custody was a very serious offence and sentenced Moyo to three years, which is the maximum sentence in a district court.

Moyo is currently on trial at the Pretoria Prison Court for his attempt to escape from Pretoria Central.

The case has been delayed several times as magistrate Chris Chokoe recused himself claiming he had seen too many articles in the newspapers about the trio as well as news broadcasts.

The case is continuing and Moyo will start serving his three-year jail term in 2026.

Pretoria News