Heist robbers escape Methuselah sentence

2014-01-09 05:30
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Pietermaritzburg - Five robbers were sentenced to in effect 30 years each on Wednesday for causing three deaths by pushing a pension-money transit vehicle off a road.

KwaZulu-Natal High Court Judge Anton van Zyl found that life terms for the murders were not appropriate as the robbers had not wanted the victims dead.

The five were: former Ladysmith police canine unit member Siyabona Mkwanyana; Jerody Mthiyane, of Mamelodi East; Philemon Nhleko, of Durban; Ewat Kaba, of Johannesburg; and Zikethula Sokhelo, of Vosloorus.

Gang member Ottoman Msimang himself died in the collision, in which the transit vehicle rolled, killing its trapped driver George van Tonder and guard Sibusiso Phakathi.

The robbers chose a stretch of road between Newcastle and Ladysmith for the robbery in October 2009 and it was well-planned.

Although the exact plan was not spelled out in court, it seemed the robbers planned to steal a vehicle with a long flatbed and use it to side-swipe the security van and push it off the road.

Van Zyl said there was an inherent risk of calamity in the plan to push the van off the road.

This plan seemed to go wrong, and a calamitous head-on collision, causing deaths and injuries, resulted.

After the collision, the robbers blew open a safe in the security van and tried to extricate their accomplice.

No attempt was apparently made to open a second safe in the back of the security vehicle.

Cash totalling R692 000 was stolen.

Each of the five robbers was sentenced to: Five years for the theft of the "attack" vehicle; 10 years for the explosion to open the safe; 15 years for the three murders, taken as one; 10 years for the attempted murder of a guard; and 20 years for aggravated robbery.

Some sentences and portions of others would run concurrently to avoid a Methuselah sentence.

Van Zyl said none of the robbers had expressed remorse. Where convicted criminals expressed apparent genuine remorse, it seemed that their chances of rehabilitation were enhanced.

All the accused were supporting their families, and their imprisonment would cause misery to their dependants, but they should have considered this before deciding to commit the robbery.

Van Zyl said robberies were a scourge and sentences should be a deterrent.

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