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

Serial escapee Bongani Moyo will spend 17 years in jail for two escapes from custody, it emerged in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.

Moyo, who has escaped several times while awaiting trial, has yet to be convicted of any of the other charges against him.

These include bank robbery, armed robbery, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, and resisting arrest.

Finding him guilty of escaping from custody from the Pretoria Magistrate's Court in August, magistrate Len Miller sentenced him to three years' imprisonment.

Miller refused to order that the sentence run concurrently with a 14-year term imposed by the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on June 4 for an escape from the Johannesburg police station.

Miller said escaping from lawful custody was a serious crime for which the court had to impose a jail term.

In sentencing Moyo, the court had also taken into account that he was appearing in connection with serious offences the day he escaped.

Moyo, 29, walked out of the court building on crutches on August 10 after being made to sit on a bench outside the courtroom where he was appearing with three others on charges including armed robbery, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, and resisting arrest.

Miller rejected Moyo's evidence that the investigating officer, Frederick Erasmus, told him to walk out of the court building.

He found contradictions between Moyo's evidence and that of his witnesses ,Khumbulani Sibanda and Thabani Sibanda, who testified in May and who are in custody with him in connection with an array of crimes, including armed robberies.

Miller said even though Moyo was not inside a holding cell with others, the court had ordered him and his co-accused to be held in custody until their next appearance.

“The accused knew he was a prisoner and it was wrong for him to do so (escape). You had no reason for leaving,” he said.

“This court heard that the accused had appeared in this court whilst on crutches because he was injured. The officers had left him to sit on a bench because of his injuries,” said Miller.

He described as a “set of lies” Moyo's claim that Erasmus had threatened to kill him.

Miller said Moyo’s evidence sought to mislead the court about the circumstances around his escape.

In argument in mitigation of sentence, Moyo's counsel Donald Somo told the court he was a single parent of two children, following the death of his wife.

However, in aggravation of sentence, prosecutor Werner Gibson argued that by putting up a drawn-out legal fight against the escape charges, Moyo had shown that he was not remorseful about his actions.

“He has shown no remorse throughout the lengthy process. It is also clear the crime was premeditated and carefully planned,” said Gibson.

At the end of the proceedings, Somo told the court that he had been instructed to appeal the judgment. The application for leave to appeal was set down for June 26.

Regarding the series of armed robbery charges, Moyo, Leon Ncube and the Sibandas were informed in May that their trial had been transferred to the High Court in Pretoria and set down for trial from March 11 to 28 next year.

Moyo, Khumbulani Sibanda and Ncube also face a charge of attempting to escape from the Pretoria Central prison earlier this year. The three allegedly used prison overalls to scale a perimeter wall. A street vendor saw them jumping from the roof of the double-storey prison building and called the prison warders.

In March last year, Moyo escaped from Boksburg prison, where he was awaiting trial for alleged bank robberies. He was recaptured at the Beitbridge border post almost three months later when he re-entered South Africa from Zimbabwe. - Sapa