BULAWAYO – A police manhunt has been launched for 15 highly-dangerous Zimbabwean prisoners who escaped from a prison in Francistown, Botswana.
Some of the escapees had already been convicted while others were on remand.
According to Botswana media reports, a total of 18 prisoners broke free from Francistown Central Prison at Gerald Estates location at lunch time on Saturday. Of the 18, three are Botswana citizens.
Gerald Estates Police Station commander Edward Leposo declined to reveal much detail over fear of compromising the manhunt, but unconfirmed reports indicated that three of the fugitives were captured on Sunday.
“We have . . . assembled a strong team of soldiers, police officers and prison officials in our bid to deal with the situation,” he told Botswana media, adding that they “even deployed helicopters in a bid to effectively manage the situation”.
While Leposo said police are not ruling out the possibility that the fugitives could have fled the country, he urged members of the public to be on high alert, as the escapees are considered dangerous.
News24 quoted Zimbabwe’s police spokesperson Charity Charamba saying authorities here were waiting for official communication from their Botswana counterparts.
“We are always on standby to enforce the law but we have to follow protocol when dealing with matters of this nature,” she said.
Sixelo Sibanda and Molimbeni Moyo — who were on remand awaiting trial for murder offences — are among the three who are said to have since been re-arrested while hiding at Masingwaneng Village.
Botswana Prisons divisional commander north, senior superintendent Sekano Sekano told the local media that the prisoners escaped after destroying a fence during lunchtime.
“It looks like this was a planned escape. We do not rule out negligence on our part as prison officials. The focus is now on arresting those who have escaped. After arresting them, we will then investigate what led to the escape and put remedial measures,” Sekano said.
This is the second time prisoners have escaped from custody in Francistown in less than a year.
Last June, two prisoners, Abraham Sibanda and Shadreck Tsoko, escaped from custody and are yet to be arrested.
Escapees who are still at large are Edwin Ncube, Brilliant Thembisani, Thulani Thabani, Lindisiwe Molome, Samodimo Molotisi, Givemore Mutoloba, Rowland Moyo, Mosa Wills, Charlotte Ndlovu, Chakalani Barati and Bruce Masuku among others.