‘ATM gang’ in court

2014-11-11 00:00

TIGHT security accompanied the first high court appearance here yesterday of 10 alleged members of an ATM bombing syndicate.

They face 31 charges, including murder, and are alleged to have been part of a gang that set bombs at ATMs in KwaZulu-Natal between September 28, 2012, and January 13 last year.

They are charged with murdering local police constable Vidhur Jadoo of the dog unit in a shoot-out in Howick on November 7, 2012, as well as a woman, Bongokuhle Nkosi, and a man, Sizwe Gule, at Utrecht on December 5, last year.

The ATM bombing incidents occurred at Nottingham Road, Howick, Merrivale, Greytown and Utrecht.

The trial, which had been due to start in the high court before Judge Jerome Mnguni and an assessor yesterday, was adjourned until next Monday because some of the accused had not finalised their legal representation.

Sifiso Khubeka (28) of Bergville and Sibongeni Msibi (33) said yesterday that they would like a legal aid lawyer to represent them.

They and their co-accused, Thembela Ngubane (27), Menziwa Mdakane (28), Sifiso Mdakane (32), Sphelele Dubazane (27) — all of Bergville — Siphiwe Mabizela (34) of Ladysmith, Muthikabani Buthelezi (31) and Mthenjwa Buthelezi (27) of Mtubatuba, and Lungisani Dladla (32) of Keates Drift, are all in custody pending the outcome of the trial.

The trial has been set down over the next month in the Pietermaritzburg high court.

The men face charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, causing explosions, malicious injury to property, attempted murder, theft and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

The state’s indictment, which details the case against them, alleges that they were part of a syndicate targeting ATMs in KwaZulu-Natal.

Their victims were mainly people who “threatened to frustrate or interfere with their aim of stealing money out of the ATMs”.

The incidents the accused are charged with are: • On September 28, 2012, an FNB ATM at Nottingham Road was bombed and R214 280 was cash stolen. Tafadzwa Michael Chapwanya, who lived nearby, was shot and wounded when he went to investigate.

• On October 20, 2012, a security guard, Mzomuhle Jili, was held up at Howick Spar Centre with guns, and robbed of his hand radio and can of pepper spray. The gang then destroyed Absa and FNB ATMs with explosives. While they were still busy, Alex Zondi, his wife, Thulisile, and son, Philande, approached in a truck. The robbers fired at the vehicle, wounding Zondi in his leg, causing him to lose control and the truck hit a tree. The gang escaped with R855 000.

• On November 2, 2012, at Merrivale the syndicate bombed Absa and FNB ATMs at the local Spar. They removed R153 750 from the Absa ATM but no money from the FNB ATM.

• In the early hours of November 7, 2012, Howick policemen Philani Kunene and Sithembiso Ngcobo responded to a report of a robbery at Midmar Dam resort. En route they encountered a bakkie with the suspects on the Howick/Tweedie road and a chase ensued along the N3, during which the attackers fired several shots hitting the police vehicle. Vidhur Jadoo and a colleague, Livingstone Mpangase, of the dog unit were both shot. Jadoo died from wounds to his head.

• On December 5, 2012, they held up employees at the Utrecht Caltex Garage in Voer Street, Utrecht, and robbed them of R1 901 cash and cigarettes.

Afterwards, they bombed the Absa ATM and took R115 050 cash. Bongakuhle Nkosi and Sizwe Gulem who were in a vehicle were shot when they stopped on the road near the garage. Both were killed.

• The bombing spree continued and on January 5 last year, the gang bombed FNB ATM’s in Pine Street, Greytown, and made off with R300 000. A security guard, Alexis Ndlovu, who went to investigate was shot at but not hurt.

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