Armed robbers get long jail sentences

2014-05-16 00:00

TWO men convicted of involvement in a supermarket robbery and a hijacking in the city during 2009 were given long jail sentences by a high court judge in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

William Mbhele (61), who was convicted of involvement in both armed robberies, was jailed for 18 years effectively.

His co-accused, Bongani Bhengu (47), who was found guilty only of taking part in the robbery at Sizanani Supermarket in Retief Street, was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Judge Trevor Gorven said having regard to their previous convictions it was safe to say that both accused have a propensity to commit crimes.

This also showed that both of them were poor candidates for rehabilitation.

Both men were convicted of taking part in an armed hold-up at Sizanani Supermarket in Retief Street on March 5, 2009, during which one of their co-perpetrators was shot and killed during a gun battle with the store owners.

The robbers made off with R55 000 in cash and airtime vouchers worth an estimated R25 000.

Mbhele was also found guilty of robbing Derrick King and his son, Selwyn, at gunpoint in Alexandra Park and making off with King’s Toyota Camry car, a wallet, wristwatch, cellphone and a bicycle. The incident took place on May 1, 2009.

Judge Gorven said Mbhele’s two previous convictions for possession of a firearm and ammunition, and another two previous convictions for robberies were relevant even though some dated back more than 10 years.

Bhengu also had previous convictions for housebreaking, theft and robbery.

Gorven said the robberies in the present case were both serious.

Firearms were used by the perpetrators and a member of the gang had been shot dead when the victims defended themselves and shots were exchanged.

The judge said crimes like these are rife, and society is “heartily sick of people who commit robbery with aggravating circumstances”.

“The interests of society demand that people who commit offences like this are punished, and that some incentive is given to others not to follow in their footsteps,” he said.

He said the attitude of society towards these crimes was reflected by the fact the legislature has prescribed minimum sentences for them.

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