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 - Prison officials helped serial escapee Bongani Moyo and a co-accused escape from custody, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Monday.

Moyo appeared in the dock with Khumbulani Sibanda, after the court separated their trial from that of Leon Ncube and Thabani Sibanda.

Judge Natvarlal Ranchod postponed the case against Ncube and Thabani Sibanda to August 12, when it is scheduled to run until August 23.

Corroborating each other’s versions, Moyo, 29, and Khumbulani Sibanda, 30, submitted sworn statements as part of a plea bargain with the State.

They said they were guilty and that they had always known their actions violated other people's freedoms.

Part of Moyo’s statement read: “While I was in prison, considering the inhuman and uncomfortable life my kids were experiencing back home and how my parents were struggling, I then planned with Khumbulani, Max, Nqo and another guy only known to Max, to make a life for them (the families).

“We planned to make money and the only way was to rob banks and provide for our families. I and Khumbulani then worked our way out of prison. We planned the escape and were successful with the help of prison officials.”

After escaping from Boksburg prison in March 2011, the men ganged up and held meetings in Pretoria and Rustenburg to check whether “the strategy in robbing banks” would work out, and to cement logistical issues.

“Some days we would send people to go and study bank buildings and cash halls for us to make entry and exit familiar. 1/8During robberies 3/8 we never preferred using our cars and we always hired people who knew nothing of our mission to transport us.”

Moyo someone identified only as Max made the transport arrangements.

Moyo said the gang’s first robbery was on April 12, 2011, when R62 000 was seized at gunpoint from the tellers at Absa Bank’s Roodepoort branch, in Johannesburg.

The second robbery was in Pretoria on April 19 at the FNB branch in Gezina.

“I was heading the show. I went in there (the bank) and told everyone to be still and then saw a manager, pointed her with a firearm and demanded money. I only learned later that her name was Michelle Jacobs,” Moyo said in his statement.

“She was very scared at the sight of a firearm. With force and violence, we then took cash from her and left the bank.”

On the same day, the gang robbed the Standard Bank branch in Hatfield, Pretoria.

“We threatened the personnel with firearms and, with force and threats of violence, took from them cash in the amount of R38,463.96. We demanded their co-operation and promised not to shoot.”

He said after the Hatfield robbery, the gang had wanted to take a break. (But we) realised that the money was not enough, given that we had to share and we have bigger families back home to take care of.”

The next robbery followed on April 21 at the Nedbank branch in Rustenburg.

“In this bank they (the staff) were a bit resistant, and we had to jump over the counters to collect the money ourselves. We threatened the person who was in charge and took from him an amount of R65 000,” said Moyo.

Subsequent robberies were carried out at other banks in Boksburg, Pretoria and Roodepoort.

The Zimbabweans are facing charges relating to a series of armed bank robberies in Gauteng and North West in 2011.

The charges against them include racketeering, robbery with aggravating circumstances, possession of unlicensed firearms, and escaping from lawful custody.

Moyo and Khumbulani said they understood the charges and were guilty as charged. Ranchod adjourned the matter until Tuesday for the submission of arguments in mitigation and aggravation of sentence.

The Zimbabweans escorted into court by more than 10 correctional services officers on Monday morning. Before proceedings started, they chatted and laughed with some of the officers. Moyo wore a branded, blue, Italian national soccer team jersey. - Sapa