Bail for another suspect in the Thabo Bester case


By Marecia Damons and Becker Semela, GroundUp

Another G4S prison officer who is believed to have helped convicted murderer and serial rapist Thabo Bester escape from Mangaung prison in Bloemfontein in May last year, has been released on bail.

Joel Makhetha and Moeketsi Ramolula appeared in the magistrate’s court in Bloemfontein on Tuesday. Makhetha was released on bail of R10 000. Ramolula abandoned his bail application.

Makhetha and Ramolula were arrested two weeks ago for their alleged involvement in Bester’s escape. They stand trial on charges related to corpse desecration, helping a prisoner during an escape and corruption.

Both were prison officers and were suspended by G4S earlier this year.

During their bail hearing, Ramolula’s lawyer, Adriaan Janse van Rensburg, told the court that his client had meanwhile decided to abandon his bail application.

Makhetha’s lawyer, Tshepo Thusi, told the court that Makhetha lives with his partner in Botshabelo in Mangaung and that he has four children, aged between nine and 24, to support.

Thusi says Makhetha has been suspended with pay and earns R17 244 per month. He further argued that Makhetha has no previous convictions or pending cases against him.

Makhetha said in his affidavit that he “has strong emotional ties in Botshabelo and it is highly unlikely that he will evade his trial”.

“I was arrested at home and during my arrest I gave my full cooperation to the police,” argued Makhetha.

He says he also does not know who the state’s witnesses are and if their identities were revealed to him, he would not interfere with these witnesses.

Makhetha handed over his passport to the police and intends to contest the charges brought against him, Thusi said.

The public prosecutor, adv. Sello Matlhoko, did not oppose Makhetha’s bail application. He also gave Thusi a list of the 18 state witnesses who, according to him, had already given statements.

“(Thusi) confirmed that the witnesses who have already given statements are unknown to the accused. So there is no likelihood that he will interfere with the witnesses. There are approximately 18 witnesses with whom he is not allowed to communicate or interfere,” Matlhoko told the court.

Magistrate Estelle de Lange said Makhetha was nevertheless facing a schedule 5 offence. To determine whether it is in the interest of justice to release Makhetha on bail, De Lange said that his art. 64 of the Criminal Procedure Act must take into account.

The article deals with whether the accused applying for bail is a flight risk, whether the applicant is going to try to influence or intimidate witnesses, whether the person endangers the functioning of the criminal justice system, disturbs public order or the public peace or security is undermined if he or she is released on bail.

“I find that none of these factors are present in this application,” said De Lange and granted bail of R10 000 to Makhetha.

His bail conditions prohibit him from contacting any witnesses. He may not leave Bloemfontein without the permission of the investigating officer and must report to the Bloemspruit police station every Monday between 08:00 and 16:00.

So far, 12 people have been charged in the Bester escape saga. They are expected to appear in court together on August 8. The defendants face a total of 16 charges.

  • The report was originally posted on GroundUp and is used with permission.