From Ananias Mathe to Thabo Bester & 4 Other Daring and Dramatic Prison Escapes in South Africa

From Ananias Mathe to Thabo Bester & 4 Other Daring and Dramatic Prison Escapes in South Africa

  • South Africa has a long list of prisoners who have dared to escape from captivity over the years
  • The likes of Ananias Mathe and Thabo Bester used money and elaborate schemes to gain freedom
  • In some cases, prisoners worked together and escaped from their cells using teamwork and weird tools

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South Africa is no stranger to prison breaks. Inmates who have been convicted of various heinous crimes are not usually keen on the idea of being punished for their criminal activities.

South African prisoners have committed daring prison escape
Some of South Africa's notorious criminals, such as Ananias Mathe, have committed some of the most daring prison escapes. Images:@RonaldPhiri/Twitter, City Press/Gallo Images & ArtistGNDphotography
Source: Getty Images

Some prisoners usually hatch plans to become "free men" alone, while others rope in fellow inmates and sometimes prison warders to help them execute their plans.

Briefly News takes a quick look at some of the most daring and dramatic prison escapes in South Africa.

1. Ananias Mathe used Vaseline to slide through prison bars

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The late Ananias Mathe, a serial rapist‚ robber and murderer, was infamously known for reportedly using Vaseline to slip through a window of a c-max prison in Pretoria.

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The Mozambican national terrorised South African women for many years and seemed to have been a magician when he escaped from his cell through a 20cmx60cm window in 2006. According to TimesLIVE, the Vaseline story was all a lie and he escaped with the help of at least six prison warders.

While the Vaseline story made the heinous criminal seem like a mastermind, the Department of Correctional Services found that Mathe paid an R80 000 bribe for his freedom.

After the money was paid, Mathe was simply escorted out of prison. Mathe was able to bankroll his way out of prison because he ran a cross-border criminal syndicate in addition to the many other crimes he was convicted of.

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Mathe attempted to escape from prison on five different occasions but was only successful twice, according to IOL.

2. Thabo Bester escapes from prison by faking his death

Thabo Bester, dubbed the Facebook rapist, is probably the modern-day Ananias Mathe with his prison escape.

By faking his death, Bester reportedly escaped from the Mangaung Correctional Service in Bloemfontein. On 3 May 2022, reports stated that Bester had committed suicide by setting himself on fire, but an investigation by GroundUP indicated that Bester was alive and well.

Bester was spotted grocery shopping at Woolworths with his girlfriend, celebrity doctor Nandipha Magudumana in Sandton, Johannesburg, two months after his supposed death.

Almost a year later, the Correctional Services department announced that the body found in Bester's cell was not his. GroundUP also found that Bester lived lavishly and stayed in a R12 million mansion in Sandton with his girlfriend. The couple has since abandoned their rented house.

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The publication also noted that Bester was a fraudster who ran a fake multimillion-rand media company behind bars and a phoney construction company as a fugitive.

Bester seems to have escaped from prison with the help of three G4S prison warders, including Senohe Matsoara, a man who was able to buy a car worth more than R500 000 with a R15 000 to R18 000 salary.

The police are still looking for Bester and his girlfriend as more information comes to light every day.

3. Mass Malmesbury prison escape: 69 prisoners plan a daring prison break

In 2020, 69 inmates at Malmesbury Prison decided to take freedom into their own hands during their midday exercise routine.

According to IOL, the prisoners escaped by overpowering guards and locking three of them in a cell. Nine warders sustained minor injuries, but the prisoners did not struggle much because most simply walked out the main door.

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The prison had more than 400 inmates, with just 20 guards to keep an eye on them. Some of the prisoners hijacked a vehicle while the rest made a run for it on foot.

63 of the 69 prisoners did not get far and were recaptured the next day.

4. Phumzile Langeni escapes from prison after swapping identification badges

Criminals are definitely creative when they plan their big prison breaks, and Phumzile Langeni from the Eastern Cape was no different.

According to Huffington Post, Langeni escaped from the St Albans prison in broad daylight and his great escape was not detected until the next day. The convict reportedly switched tags with another inmate who had more free range because of his duties at the facility, while Langeni had a cleaning job.

His new tag gave him access to areas he was restricted from and he somehow found a way to walk out of prison. At the time, Langeni was serving a 30-year sentence for multiple cases of robbery, attempted murder and possession of an unlicensed firearm, according to Algoa FM.

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Langeni was later rearrested.

5. Prisoners escape after digging out a toilet in Mpumalanga

Some prisoners have no time to stand trial for their alleged crimes, so they simply escape before they have their day in court.

Six prisoners awaiting trial and a convicted shoplifter escaped from a correctional facility in Secunda, Mpumalanga, in 2013 by digging a hole with a steel pipe.

According to eNCA, prison officials were informed about the elaborate escape trick by two prisoners who chose not to escape with the rest.

Here's how they did it:

"They removed the toilet and broke bricks from around the toilet, then escaped through the hole," said Colonel Leonard Hlathi.

6. Five prisoners in the Eastern Cape escape after jumping out a window

Some prisoners plan great escapes together, but there is no honour amongst criminals, and this prison break story proves it.

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In 2017, Correctional Services officials at Empangeni Medium Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal found an inmate stuck in barbed wire. The prisoner was left behind by a group of five other prisoners who were on the run after successfully escaping.

According to IOL, the inmates reportedly escaped through a communal window which they managed to bend at around 3am. They then jumped over a six metre-tall barbed wire fence and made their way to the street.

SANDF soldier arrested for involvement in Limpopo prisoner escape, Mzansi wants him charged with treason

Briefly News previously reported that a South African National Defence Force member was arrested for allegedly assisting with the escape of six inmates awaiting trial in Limpopo on Monday, 13 March.

The Limpopo tracking team and murder and robbery unit quickly arrested Kedibone Albert Langa on Tuesday, 14 March.

Police captured the SANDF soldier along with an alleged accomplice, Thabani Sibanda, for their involvement in a heavily armed attack on a police vehicle transporting the inmates.

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Source: Briefly News

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