Bail judgement on Monday for 5 Thabo Bester co-accused

Judgment on the bail application by the five individuals involved in the controversial escape of convicted criminal Thabo Bester is scheduled to be announced on Monday at the Bloemfontein High Court.

The accused, Senohe Matsoara, Teboho Lipholo, Buti Masukela, Tieho Frans Makhotsa, and Nastassja Jansen, are facing charges associated with the contentious getaway of the convicted murderer and rapist from the Mangaung Correctional Centre in May 2022.

During the bail application proceedings, the court was presented with compelling evidence by investigating officer Tieho Flyman, linking the five accused to the escape. The state vehemently opposed bail for the accused, expressing concerns that their release could incite public outrage and potentially interfere with ongoing investigations.

However, the defence attorneys representing the accused dismissed these claims and asserted that their clients are not flight risks and would not tamper with the investigation. The defence attorneys further cross-examined the state’s witness, challenging the prosecution’s case.

Over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, the defence presented their closing arguments, highlighting various factors pertaining to each accused’s case.

Kagisho Moruri, representing accused number one, Senohe Matsoara, emphasised that his client is not prone to violence and would not endanger the public. Moruri stated that Matsoara has a fixed address and an alternative residence at his sister’s place, and he had surrendered his passport upon arrest, indicating he is not a flight risk.

“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,” Moruri argued.

Moruri, who also represents accused number seven, Tieho Makhotsa, argued that Makhotsa had only spent 23 days in custody and did not have any pending matters before the court. Furthermore, he pointed out that Makhotsa had provided his passport and is an honest individual, thereby dismissing any concerns about him fleeing the country.

Tshotlego Makamedi, the defense attorney for accused number three, Teboho Lipholo, mentioned that his client had a past conviction for stock theft but highlighted that Lipholo is still employed and was on leave on the day of his arrest.

Makamedi argued that Lipholo’s continued incarceration would hinder his ability to consult with his lawyers effectively. Makamedi also stated that Lipholo is not facing any murder charges and that there has been no unrest since the release on bail of another accused in the case.

“My client is not facing any charge of murder. The Bloemfontein Celtic Supporters Club have been protesting over the death of one Katlego Bereng.

“There has been no unrest since accused two [Zolile Sekeleni] was released on bail.

“The accused cooperated with police, there is no evidence before this court [that] he will become a fugitive if he is granted bail,” argued Makamedi.

Masilo Koenane, representing accused number six, Buti Masukela, emphasised that his client is a first-time offender with no history of violence. Koenane pointed out that Masukela has a permanent residence and no means to flee, and his financial situation as a breadwinner with four children should be taken into consideration.

Gary Botha, the defence attorney representing accused number nine, Nastassja Jansen, asserted that Jansen’s alleged involvement in aiding Bester’s escape, in her capacity as a G4S employee, was simply a part of her job responsibilities.

Botha emphasised Jansen’s clean record and her role as the primary caregiver for her two children, urging the court to take her personal circumstances into account.

In response, the state presented counter-arguments, including allegations that Lipholo failed to disclose his involvement in cattle trading, Masukela lied under oath about the ownership of his residence, and concerns over public disorder and the community’s trust in the justice system if the accused were to be released on bail.

Also read: Thabo Bester case: Flyman subjected to intense grilling

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