Five-minute gang back

2009-07-25 00:00

THE notorious “five-minute gang” seem to be back. Dozens of lightning fast housebreakings and burglaries have been attributed to the gang since its two key members obtained bail from the Pietermaritzburg High Court in October last year.

After being denied bail by the Regional Court in Pietermaritzburg, alleged gang ringleaders Ntokozo Majola and Jabulani Radebe, reputed to be behind burglaries in areas as far apart as Ladysmith and Richards Bay, obtained bail from the high court.

At the time, they were out on bail for a burglary in Hillcrest that was committed — this was while they were out on bail facing charges on yet another case of conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and dozens of weapons charges.

The key argument their legal team presented in the bail application that was the men were only accused of burglaries, were not violent and are not alleged to have committed any crimes while carrying weapons.

Since their release, one Durban security company — Blue Security — recorded an average of 10 burglaries matching the modus operandi of the “five-minute gang” every week.

Detective Inspector Riaan van Rooyen of the Pietermaritzburg Organised Crime Unit told Weekend Witness that almost as soon as the two men obtained bail, the province was hit by a wave of burglaries.

“First off, Ladysmith was targeted. From there, all parts of the province have been victims of this gang. The technique they use is to derail security gates, drive up to the doors of the house, smash their way in with a heavy hammer and then loot the place in seconds. They got the name because their burglaries probably take less than five minutes.”

Although the gang have not been linked to violent crimes in KwaZulu-Natal, while successfully opposing bail in the regional court, Van Rooyen revealed that two of the burglary gang faced charges relating to a plot to commit a major cash-in-transit robbery in East London — as well as the possession of assault rifles, machine guns and ammunition.

Along with several other men, the pair were charged with the plot, then released on bail before finally having their case struck off the roll because, after more than two years, the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory had not been able to process DNA evidence that the prosecution wanted to use against the men.

Weekend Witness confirmed that charges against the men were re-instated weeks before their high court bail application. The men were not arrested again on the conspiracy charges, but had their bail extended.

Majola and Radebe were initially arrested and charged as the “five-minute gang” after Majola attempted to flee from an attempted burglary in Pietermaritzburg, and crashed into a Chubb Security car responding to the burglary.

After wrecking his BMW and the security company car, Majola and co-accused Sibongiseni Zwane, Mdeni Vilakazi and Jabulani Radebe, all ran, ignoring calls to stop The four were tracked down by police dogs.

A crowbar and heavy hammer found in the BMW matched the instruments police believe the gang used in the botched burglary and also to burgle other homes.

Majola, who owns a butchery and fleet of taxis, told the courts the crowbar and hammer were being used to renovate his home. However, he could provide no proof of any renovation or construction work.

He said that the false number plates on his BMW were to prevent rival taxi operators identifying him. He explained his presence in Pietermaritzburg by saying that he and friends were giving Zwane a lift to meet his girlfriend at the Liberty Midlands Mall.

A witness who summoned police and Chubb security to the scene allegedly saw the four derail a security gate and attempt to hammer open the front door of a home. The witness also saw the four flee in a BMW X5 similar to Majola’s.

At the time of their arrest in Pietermaritzburg, the four men were out on bail the alleged housebreaking in Hillcrest. After allegedly derailing the gates of the home and smashing open the front door, the men fled in a car loaded with loot — only to drive into a police patrol.

After a high-speed chase, they crashed and destroyed their getaway vehicle. Van Rooyen told said he is working with several police stations in an attempt to combat the current wave of burglaries.

Defence lawyer in the East London cash heist plot case, Mdu Heshula, confirmed charges relating to the case were reinstated in September last year. The Pietermaritzburg High Court granted Majola and Radebe bail almost a month later. First off, Ladysmith was targeted. From there, all parts of the province have been victims of this gang.

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