Thabo Bester escape: Lawyers challenge police officer’s objections to bail

Bail application for five accused continued for a third day

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Teboho Lipholo, Motenyane Masukela and Tieho Makhotsa during their bail hearing at the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Friday. Photo: Becker Semela

  • Five of the eight accused in the Thabo Bester matter appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Friday.
  • During cross-examination of investigating officer Flyman, lawyers challenged his reasons for opposing bail.
  • The hearing will resume with closing arguments on 23 May.

The bail hearing for five of the eight accused in the Thabo Bester matter continued in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Friday. Legal representatives for the accused continued cross-examining the state’s witness, Lieutenant-Colonel Teboho Flyman.

The defence took the opportunity to challenge the charges brought against the accused and to dispute some of Flyman’s arguments for why the accused should not be granted bail. Flyman had previously testified that the community was angry and could take action against the accused, and that the accused could pose a danger to the state’s witnesses.

Suspended G4S staff member Motenyani Masukela is alleged to have been at the prison gate when the decoy body was brought to the prison. His lawyer Masilo Koenane challenged whether there was sufficient evidence to charge Masukela with being involved in claiming the body that ended up in Bester’s cell. Flyman responded that it was up to the prosecution to charge the accused, not the police. Flyman said he had provided evidence, after which the prosecution charged Masukela with fraud.

Koenane said that because Masukela only reported for duty at 07:45 on 3 May, he could not have been involved in starting the fire earlier that morning. He also said that there was no evidence that Masukela helped Bester escape.

Flyman said witness statements suggest that Masukela’s involvement was to do with allowing the vehicle through the prison gates despite his supervisor telling him not to do so.

On the issue of bail, Koenane said that there is no reason to believe that Masukela would commit any crimes or harm witnesses if he is released on bail.

Koenane suggested that his client did not know that the TV stand in the vehicle contained a corpse. Flyman disagreed. Magistrate Mohlolo Khabisi told Koenane that his line of questioning was more suitable for the criminal trial.

Koenane said that Masukela did not receive payment and was not part of the escape plot. Flyman responded that Masukela “was supposed to search all vehicles going through the gate. His supervisor even asked him not to allow the vehicle through… these actions show he knew what was happening.”

Asked why Masukela should be denied bail, Flyman said that the community could attack him.

Advocate Kagisho Moruri, for Tieho Makhotsa, a G4S employee who was in the Central Control Room at the prison on the night of the escape, asked whether Makhotsa had made any threats to potential witnesses. Flyman said he had not. Moruri argued that Makhotsa would be handing over his passport to the police, showing that he did not intend to flee.

Gary Botha, representing former G4S employee Natassja Jansen, asked Flyman to confirm that Jansen does not have a history of violence, does not have a passport, and that she gave her full cooperation to the police during the investigation. Flyman confirmed. Botha asked Flyman if there is any evidence that Jansen would evade the trial or interfere with state witnesses. Flyman said he does not have that evidence.

Botha asked Flyman if he had any proof that Jansen was involved in claiming the body from the state morgue, smuggling it into the prison, or setting a fire in the cell. Flyman said he had no such proof.

Botha asked Flyman who opened the door for Thabo Bester to walk out of the prison. Flyman replied that it would have been the person working in the Central Control Room. Flyman said that it was Jansen and Makhotsa who had opened the door.

“How do you know that it was specifically [Jansen] that opened the door?” asked Botha.

“They were the people who were in charge of opening or closing the doors at G4S,” Flyman said. He also said it was their duty to check the cameras.

Magistrate Khabisi interjected: “We are not yet on trial … I’m not sure what you’re getting at.”

“My argument is that there is no evidence against my client,” Botha said.

Botha said there was no evidence that Jansen received any money. Flyman agreed but said that he still did not think Jansen should receive bail.

The hearing will resume on 23 May for closing arguments.

TOPICS:  Thabo Bester prison escape

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