Notorious prisoner and escape artist Ananias Mathe has made a second attempt to break out of the Ebongweni C-Max Prison near Kokstad.
Correctional Services spokesman Thulani Mdluli confirmed the attempted escape but declined to speak further on the matter, saying there was an investigation being conducted, “and we would like to respect that investigation”.
It is understood though that Mathe managed to saw bars in his cell and break a window before being apprehended.
This is his second attempt to escape from what is one of the most secure prisons in the country.
In 2013 he tried to get out by chiselling away the wall and damaging the prison sink.
Ebongweni is run off an integrated system that includes pneumatic sliding doors, an electrified security fence with detection alarm systems and CCTV cameras throughout.
Access control is through a combination of digital and biometric systems and checks.
A special national panel is convened to decide which convicts should be sent to the prison, and its recommendations have to be approved by the chief deputy commissioner of corrections.
The Mercury understands that Mathe sawed through the prison bars and smashed a window.
“This is one of those strong windows that have plastic inside,” said an official not permitted to speak to the media.
“How he smashed it is not clear. And how he managed to saw the bars we do not know, but it seems that he was doing this at night.
“He claims it was a saw, but where would he get a saw?”
Mathe is described as a serial rapist and armed robber from Mozambique who achieved notoriety in 2006 by being the only person to have ever escaped from the maximum high-security C-Max Penitentiary in Pretoria.
He escaped by smearing himself with petroleum jelly and sliding out of his cell window, which measured only 20cm x 60cm.
Mathe was initially arrested on 51 counts of murder, attempted murder, rape, hijacking and armed robbery in November 2006.
He was found guilty on 64 of 71 charges including rape, attempted rape, attempted murder, robbery and theft, and was sentenced to 54 years’ imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 43 years.
The official said Mathe seemed to have high-level training: “He can use anything as a weapon. His hands are a weapon.”
There has never been an escape from the prison.
It is home to Sibusiso “Tilili” Mzimela, who has escaped from prison nine times.
He was sentenced to 89 years in prison in 2011.