‘Robbery victims still have slugs in bodies’

2013-07-05 00:00

A FIVE-YEAR-OLD pension robbery victim still has a bullet lodged in his back near his spine.

Banele Hlela was among the civilians who were shot and wounded during the robbery at kwaSiyabonga Supermarket in Kranskop on July 2, 2010.

All the other civilians who were shot also still have bullets lodged in their bodies, and it was “nothing short of a miracle” that no one was killed during the robbery.

This was submitted yesterday by state advocate Candy Kander.

Kander has urged the high court to consider imposing effective jail sentences of around 42 years’ imprisonment on each of the five men convicted of the robbery with aggravating circumstances, and related charges yesterday.

These include nine counts of attempted murder — five of them relating to injuries inflicted on civilians caught in the crossfire during gun battle, and the others in relation to a shoot-out with police officers.

Kander further urged acting high court Judge Tule-tu Tonjeni to order that the accused not be released on parole until they have served 25 years of their imposed sentences.

Earlier this week, Sizwe Ntshangase (27), Muzi Ndawonde (28) and Mlungisi Magwaza (24) asked the court to show them leniency when sentencing them, saying they had family members who relied on their support. Despite having been found guilty, however, they said they still maintain their innocence.

Lawyers for the remaining accused, Bongikwema Langa (32) and Phumlani Mpembe (28), urged the court to take into account various mitigating factors in their favour.

In the case of Mpembe, it was argued that as the “getaway driver” he had played a lesser role in the actual robbery and shooting than his accomplices.

Kander, however, said the magnitude of the robbery, the planning involved, the “heavy artillery” used and manner in which it was executed called for a sentence that was higher than the minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment prescribed in law in respect of all the accused.

She said all five accused had a reasonable education and were employed at the time of the robbery.

The advocate said their “brazenness and recklessness” for targeting the supermarket on a day when elderly and indigent people converged there in large numbers to collect their pensions was aggravating.

Rather than surrender when police arrived, the robbers had displayed “vehement resistance, endangering the life and limb of innocent civilians and police official” by opening fire.

“The aiming and firing of automatic and semi-automatic weapons at the police demonstrates the tenacious and criminal character of the accused,” she said.

Sentencing is expected today.

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