A police officer has been suspended after the escape of seven prisoners from police holding cells in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, at the weekend.
Police spokesman Superintendent Mzukisi Fatyela said three of the seven were involved in a separate earlier escape on Wednesday, where five inmates allegedly stabbed a police officer and escaped from court.
Two of the five escapees are still at large. The other three were rearrested on Thursday and Saturday, but managed to escape again with four other prisoners later on Saturday.
"They overpowered a police officer who was at the cells, locked him up before their escape and fled with the keys.
"We managed to open the cells later after we had got other keys," he said.
Fatyela said the police officer in question knew that he should not have gone to the cells alone and was therefore suspended with immediate effect for flouting standard police procedure.
Fatyela made it clear that disciplinary action would be taken against the officer.
He also said the officer was being investigated and if it was found that he had aided the escapees he would be fired.
"We cannot keep corrupt people here," he said.
The second escape brings the total number of escaped prisoners in Mthatha to nine.
The escapees were facing charges ranging from murder, attempted murder, armed robbery and hijacking.
Police have urged members of the community to contact local police stations should they know the whereabouts of the escapees.
Fatyela said the public should regard all the escapees as dangerous and he hoped they would be arrested soon.