Ezemvelo gun thief jailed for 15 years

2008-08-18 00:00

A MEMBER of a gang that used inside information to break into an Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) to steal 14 firearms was jailed for an effective 15 years by the Ramsgate High Court yesterday.

Empangeni assistant electrician Mhlonishwa Mthembu (35) was sentenced to 10 years’ for the burglary and theft of the guns and R7 000, 15 years’ for the unlawful possession of a machine rifle and three years for ammunition. The sentences are to run concurrently.

During earlier hearings in Mtubatuba, EKZNW officials said the break-in gang was highly skilled.

They gained entry through the roof, shearing bolts and removing roof sheets, then cutting wiring in several alarm systems, breaking through the ceiling and using angle grinders to break open safes.

The gang stole seven R1 rifles, four hunting rifles, four handguns and cash.

State prosecutor Dorian Paver called for a severe punishment for Mthembu. “This was no ordinary burglary. They targeted a semi-government institution to steal dangerous weapons such as are used every day in violent and sometimes fatal crimes.”

The premeditation, planning and duration of the burglary and theft called for severe punishment.

Judge Gregory Kruger agreed. He said machine rifles are potentially highly dangerous. A single pull of the trigger could keep the gun firing and spray bullets that could kill several people.

He said Mthembu was partly to blame for putting the guns into wrong hands.

Kruger turned down an application for leave to appeal against the convictions and sentences. Other members of the gang are still at large.

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