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Pretoria - Serial escapee Bongani Moyo and Khumbulani Sibanda committed bank robberies to fend for themselves and their families, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria heard on Wednesday.
Leading evidence in mitigation of sentence for the Zimbabweans, their counsel Donald Somo said factors including poverty and the bad influence of friends had led the two to crime.
Moyo and Sibanda have entered into a plea bargain deal with the State.
They submitted sworn statements in which they admitting to 15 counts, including racketeering, bank robbery, possession of unlicensed firearms and escape.
"The court should consider the accused persons' circumstances, including where they are coming from and what motivated them into crime," Somo submitted.
"For accused number four [Moyo], after serving his sentence he should be allowed to take care of his child.
"Their sentences should not be out of their life expectancies. Society needs people like the accused."
Judge Natvarlal Ranchod interjected: "Yes, but only when they are rehabilitated."
Somo asked the court to combine the sentences for the numerous bank robberies into one.
However, Ranchod said the robberies had been committed at different places on different days.
The State also opposed Somo's proposal.
Somo asked the court to be lenient. He said Moyo and Sibanda had shown remorse and had displayed respect for human life throughout their robberies.
Even though they had wielded loaded firearms, they had not shot at their victims, he said.
"They have told this court explicitly how necessary it was for them to commit the crime. They didn't want lavish lifestyles, but to have bread, not bread and butter, on their tables."
Said Ranchod: "So you are saying in those circumstances one justifies a bank robbery? They could steal bread from a shop. Your submission is difficult to follow."
Somo said "fighting" displayed in images brought to court on Wednesday by forensic expert Andries Marthinus van der Linde should not be generalised to mean Moyo and Sibanda were violent.
"If one looks at those images, the only way to get the victims [bank staff and patrons] to submission was by pointing the firearms.
"This was not a case where a gun was fired at someone. It was not the worst crime," he said.
Andries Marthinus van der Linde, a former policeman and member of an FNB branch earlier showed the court pictures of Moyo and Sibanda robbing banks as part of a gang in 2011.
He said the images were captured by security cameras in banks during robberies.
"We see that accused there [pointing to Moyo] and the action is slapping the security guard in the bank. He has a firearm in his left hand," Van der Linde told the court.
"In the other image we see him kicking the security guard, who is lying down. We see that in the other image the bank clients are lying down.
"That can only happen when there is use of violence and threats."
Ranchod postponed the matter to 25 March for sentencing.
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