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Police battle spate of escapes

Authorities in Limpopo have warned that heads will roll should police officers be found to have helped suspected criminals to escape from custody.

This comes after two awaiting trial prisoners escaped in the Burgersfort area in Sekhukhune, bringing the number of suspects to have broken free from custody in the province this year to eight.

In the latest incident, one of the escapees is alleged to have got away by pointing a firearm at police officers, while a suspected serial rapist was later rearrested.

Lieutenant-Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe yesterday said police were concerned about the recent spate of escapes.

"The provincial commissioner is very worried and, as a result, he has drawn up a strategy to deal with these types of incidents head on

"If ever during our internal investigations we find that some of our members are at fault ... heads are going to roll," Ngoepe said.

He said police have since launched a manhunt for two other escapees - David Ramahahlo, 30, and Moses Ngwatle, 39 - who are suspected of housebreaking. The pair broke loose from a police van while being transported from court in Burgersfort.

Last month Gift Tonko, 20, who had been in custody in connection with raping five teenage girls, got away after someone claiming to be a relative falsely used another person's identity to pay R300 bail for him.

Tonko was later rearrested in the Hlogotlou area where he had been hiding.

Afra Rikhotso, 27, also escaped last month after pointing a firearm at police officers who were transporting him. The officers had apparently stopped at a filling station outside Polokwane to buy food when the incident unfolded.

Another suspect Vincent Phetla, 32, who was linked to a string of armed robberies around the Steelpoort and Burgersfort areas, had also escaped from custody.

In April, three prisoners, including armed robbery suspect Elia Makgaba, fled from holding cells in Haenertburg outside Tzaneen.

Ngoepe said although the police had succeeded in capturing most of the escapees, the trend was still worrying because dangerous people were finding their way back into the community.


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