Bail hearing of five accused in Thabo Bester case to continue on Wednesday
The state has argued that releasing the five accused on bail will undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Picture File: Five people accused of helping convicted rapist and jailbreak fugitive Thabo Bester (not seen) escape from the Mangaung Correctional Centre look on as they appear before the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on 16 May 2023. Picture: AFP.
The Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday will continue hearing the bail application of five people accused of helping convicted rapist and murderer, Thabo Bester, escape from prison last year.
Thabo Bester prison escape
The defence for the accused and the state on Tuesday presented their closing arguments in the bail application of former G4S employees Senohe Matsoara, Buti (Motenyane John) Masukela, Tieho Frans Makhotsa and Nastassja Jansen, and Integriton CCTV technician Teboho James Lipholo.
In light of their alleged involvement in Bester’s audacious escape from the G4S-operated Mangaung Correctional Centre, the state is opposing the bail applications of the accused. This is due to the group facing a range of charges, including fraud, arson, assisting an inmate to escape, and defeating the ends of justice.
Defense lawyer Kagisho Moruri, representing both Matsoara and Makhotsa, made a case for their release on bail during the closing arguments. Moruri cited the statement of the investigating officer (IO), who served as the sole witness in the bail hearing.
The IO stated that the investigations into Bester’s escape would likely take one to two months to complete. Based on this timeframe, Moruri argued that it would be in the interest of justice to grant his clients release from jail.
“It is common course that the applicant does not have any previous convictions nor does he have any pending cases.
“The respondent [IO] did not adduce any evidence to suggest that the applicant is prone to violence or that he will in any way commit a schedule one offence or any other offence for that matter,” said Moruri.
Highlighting Matsoara’s cooperation with police and the surrender of his passport, the lawyer emphasised that his client had demonstrated a responsible approach to the legal proceedings.
Additionally, Moruri contended that Matsoara had no history of violence, implying that his release on bail would not pose a risk to the public’s safety.
“He holds a South African passport, he has a fixed address and he even has an alternative address being that of his sister. The investigating officer meticulously confirmed that he also knows the parental home of accused number one… but of particular importance, at his arrest, the applicant handed over his passport.
“He did not try in any way to mislead that he doesn’t have a passport. In fact, the investigating officer says he cooperated with investigations.”
Stock theft conviction
Defense lawyer Tshotlego Makamedi, representing accused number two, Teboho James Lipholo, made a case for his client’s eligibility for bail.
Makamedi acknowledged that Lipholo had a prior conviction for stock theft, which took place over 16 years ago. However, the lawyer argued that despite this offense, Lipholo should still be considered for bail.
Lipholo stands accused of allegedly disabling the cameras at the Mangaung Correctional Centre and escorting Bester out of the facility while he was wearing a G4S uniform.
Among his arguments against bail, state advocate Sello Matlhoko contended that releasing the five accused on bail would undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system.
“And this is exactly the testimony of the investigating officer. In conclusion, the state respectfully submits that the applicants, one to four, failed to discharge the onus to satisfy this honourable court on the balance of probabilities that the interest of justice permits that release on bail.
“And in so far as applicant number five [Nastassja Jansen], it is my respectful submission that the state managed to place evidence before this court that it is in the interest of justice that she, together with the rest of the applicants, be kept in custody pending the finalisation of this matter,” Matlhoko said.
Magistrate Mohlolo Khabisi ruled that the closing arguments will continue on Wednesday.