Three more G4S prison officials in court for aiding Thabo Bester’s escape

All 12 suspects are expected back in court in August for start of the main criminal trial

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Former G4S prison officials, Joel Makhetha, Moeketsi Ramolula and Thabang Mier in the dock at the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Wednesday. They face charges of assisting Thabo Bester escape from Mangaung Correctional Centre in May. Photo: Becker Semela

Three more G4S prison officials made a brief appearance in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Wednesday after their arrest earlier this week. This brings the number of people on trial for Thabo Bester’s escape to 12.

The three new accused are due back in court on 3 July for the state to decide whether or not it will oppose bail.

The three men have been added to the main prison escape matter. They will join Bester, Nandipha Magudumana, and seven others co-accused for the start of the criminal trial on 8 August.

Thabang Mier faces a charge of aiding an inmate’s escape, while Joel Makheta and Moeketsi Ramolula face charges related to the violation of a body, aiding an inmate’s escape, and corruption. All three were suspended by G4S earlier this year. Mier was a supervision officer and Ramolula was a custody officer at the prison.

Mier was represented by Advocate Themba Diba, who is also representing Zolile Sekeleni, Nandipha Magudumana’s father. Makhetha is represented by attorney Tshope Thusi and Ramolula is represented by Sthembile Mbuthu from Legal Aid.

Outside court, one of Mier’s relatives told GroundUp that the family was devastated. The relative said Mier’s mother was hospitalised after the shocking news of his arrest.

On 20 June, the escape trial was postponed to August to allow police to conduct further investigation. The eleven suspects face a total of 16 charges. Two of the accused — Nastassja Jansen and Zolile Sekeleni — have been released on bail while the others remain in custody. Magudumana and Bester did not formally apply for bail.

Bester escaped from Mangaung Correctional Centre, a private prison run by G4S, by faking his own death in a fire in his cell. The state maintains that the prison officials who have been arrested all played a crucial role in aiding his escape. At least R150,000 exchanged hands between Bester, Magudumana and some of the prison officials in the days before and after the escape, according to the state.

Correction on 2023-06-28 15:22

The case took place on Wednesday not Tuesday, as initially reported, and there are 12 suspects, not 11. Apologies for the errors.

TOPICS:  Court Thabo Bester prison escape

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