Mthatha – It was high drama at the Mthatha High Court premises on Monday when a group of eight awaiting-trial prisoners staged a daring escape by overpowering police officers and driving off in a police van.
However‚ five were captured less than an hour after the escape following a high-speed car chase involving the prisoners who were in two police vehicles.
The drama happened around 2pm‚ according to Mthatha police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela‚ as the prisoners were being led to a van after a court appearance.
He said among them were two prisoners linked to the case of murdered Elliotdale police station commander Lieutenant-Colonel Nomalizo Dukumbana‚ who died in a hail of bullets from hired hit men two years ago.
“They [awaiting-trial prisoners] had finished appearing in court and were being led to the van when they jumped on police officers escorting them back to the Mthatha Correctional Centre‚” said Fatyela.
“Fortunately‚ they did not get any weapons because our officers were unarmed.”
All the prisoners were appearing in court on Monday on murder charges but for different cases.
The spokesman said shots were fired by a group of pursuing police officers towards the fleeing prisoners.
“None of our officers were injured during the incident‚” he added.
The police vehicle was found abandoned near a stream in the Nepgen residential suburb about a kilometre from the high court.
“Thanks to the quick response from our members we managed to arrest about five of them within minutes of escaping.”
Fatyela said only three escapees are still at large –Thando Myendeki‚ Samuel Rwentsana and Dumisana Lwana.
He said they were extremely dangerous and urged members of the public to contact the nearest police station should they see them.
He said police would leave no stone unturned in making sure the three escapees were also recaptured.
“We are using tracing dogs‚ a chopper and even our mounted unit to try and track them down‚” said Fatyela.