Pair plead not guilty to 2005 garage robbery

2008-01-29 00:00

Two men have pleaded not guilty in the high court in Pietermaritzburg to 17 charges, including the robbery with aggravating circumstances of R100 711,25, from Coin Security personnel at the BP Oasis garage alongside the N3 highway in Cato Ridge on October 12, 2005.

The two accused, Sipho Emmanuel Zitha (31) of Cato Manor, Durban, and Sydney Yende (31), of Soweto, also face five charges of attempted murder of Coin security guards Wiseman Nyuswa and Stephen Dauth, a cashier at the Oasis, Vuyasile Mazibuko, and two customers, Wayne Ric-Hanson and Colin Darby.

The state’s indictment alleges that the accused and other assailants foresaw when planning the robbery that the complex would be busy.

It is alleged that on arrival at the BP Oasis, the attackers saw Dauth returning from a drop-safe with a money box while Nyuswa kept watch. They opened fire on the two men, causing Dauth to drop the cash box and take cover, as did Nyuswa. Both men managed to escape injury.

Darby and Ric-Hanson were shot at while returning to their vehicles and Darby was wounded. Several shots were also fired into the Express shop where Mazibuko worked, but she managed to flee to safety.

The robbers then picked up the money box and fled in a BMW.

The other crimes the pair are charged with are the unlawful possession of two AK47 assault rifles and ammunition and the possession of seven firearms from which the serial numbers had been removed, allegedly recovered from Zitha’s home on the same night they were arrested.

They are also charged with having escaped from the Hammarsdale Magistrate’s Court on June 20 last year after overpowering the court orderlies.

Zitha pleaded guilty to the escape charge and said in a brief statement he felt “depressed” on that day, as he was awaiting trial on charges of which he was “innocent”.

Yende denied the escape charge, saying he did not try to flee, but only to avoid being hurt.

Both men denied all knowledge of the planning or execution of the robbery at the BP Oasis, or of

the firearm and ammunition charges.

In a statement read to court by his attorney, John Wills, Zitha claimed that he was ill at home on the day of the robbery.

He said his brother, Khumbulani, who was shot and killed in February last year, arrived in his father’s VW Caravelle and showed him a box containing money.

State advocate Ian Cooke told Acting Judge Sipho Nxumalo and two assessors that evidence will be led to show that the gang used two vehicles — a Caravelle and a BMW.

The empty money box was recovered at Paradise Valley where it had been flung off a bridge. Zitha’s fingerprints were allegedly inside the box.

He said evidence will also show that at the time of his arrest Yende was in possession of R6 000 cash and documents that suggested he had been on a “very successful shopping spree that day”.

The case is proceeding.

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