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Francistown jailbreak: How armed guards stood watching

LEBOGANG MOSIKARE
Five escapees from the january breakout at the FCII, yesterday unexpectedly received light sentences after the magistrate considered the role played by corrupt prison guards
FRANCISTOWN: Armed prison guards watched in January as 18 prisoners, including hardened criminals, walked through a hole in the fence of the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants (FCII), the deal facilitated by a handsome bribe, the Magistrates’ Court here has established.

As a result, yesterday Magistrate Ishmael Molobe sentenced five of the recaptured inmates to just six months extra in prison, instead of the allowable two years.

The lighter sentence was due to the role played by armed guards and an illicit deal that unleashed men accused of murder and armed robbery into the general population.

The breakout was the country’s biggest in history.

Mlindeni Moyo, Sicelo Sibanda, Rowland Moyo, Gaomodimo Molosiwa and Givemore Chaloba’s six month sentences will run consecutively with any sentence they may be currently serving.

Passing sentence Molobe revealed that after the audacious January escape, the court had made an unannounced impromptu visit to the FCII. It is currently being used as a prison facility while the Francistown State prison is undergoing renovations.

The purpose of the visit, Molobe said, was to assess how 18 prisoners managed to escape from the prison but shockingly after they returned from the facility, they came back with more questions than answers.

“What was most shocking was how a horde of inmates could leave a facility with a high barbed fence in broad day light in the presence of prison officers who were armed with guns without being noticed.

“I am of the view that prison officers had a

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hand in the inmates’ escape and I accordingly sentence each of the accused to only six months in jail.

“I hope that the relevant authorities are addressing the issue. I am forced to bow down and be lenient because of the circumstances the accused raised during their mitigation,” Molobe said.

In their mitigation, the accused revealed that the plot to escape arose from a bribe paid by a prisoner to an officer.

The recaptured escapees swore that the prison officers who were manning the facility did nothing to stop them from escaping, despite the fact that the officers were armed to the teeth with guns.

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions and police did not challenge the escapees’ mitigation, their revelations on the escape plot or their charges of bribery amongst prison officers.

The five sentenced men were arrested at different times and places around the country mainly in the North East District and Zimbabwe after they successfully escaped.

Eight of the 18 men who escaped from the FCII are still on the run. One has since passed on while two are in custody in Zimbabwe awaiting extradition.

They are facing serious charges amongst them murder, rape, house breaking and theft as well as armed robbery.



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