Richmond cop describes deadly gun battle

2015-05-05 09:58
Two of the Richmond Capitec Bank heist trial accused, Thulani Doncabe (front) and Siboniso Mpanza, return to the cells.

Two of the Richmond Capitec Bank heist trial accused, Thulani Doncabe (front) and Siboniso Mpanza, return to the cells. (Jonathan Burton)

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A RICHMOND policeman trying to find cover from advancing gunmen described how he’d lain down next to the body of his slain colleague, Sergeant Thamsanqa Zondi, who was bleeding profusely from a gunshot to the head.

He realised Zondi was beyond help.

Further along the road in the wake of the Capitec Bank heist on January 27 last year, another colleague, Sbonelo Mpandla, lay writhing in pain from a bullet which passed through his body from his right hip, exiting through his ribcage on his left side.

Testifying in the high court, Sergeant Gcinumuzi Wiseman Popoyi identified one of the gunmen who opened fire on the police, as Thulani Doncabe (40), who is one of three men standing trial in the Pietermaritzburg high court before Judge Rishi Seegobin.

Doncabe’s co-accused are Siboniso Mpanza (20) and Sandile Shongwe (34).

The trio face multiple charges arising from an attempted cash heist at Richmond’s Capitec Bank.

Members of Richmond police came under fire from a group of gunmen in a white Toyota bakkie who ambushed them whilst they were in pursuit of a silver grey Run-X which fled the scene of the Capitec heist.

Popoyi told the court he recognised Doncabe (40) as the person who was “at the front” of a group of three gunmen who continued firing as they advanced towards the fallen Constable Mpandla and the spot where Popoyi was lying on the floor.

Popoyi said at that stage he did not know where his other two colleagues — Constable Phelelani Nzimande and Constable Sibusiso Shodo — were and he was the “only one left firing”. “What crossed my mind was just to continue shooting and to let whatever happens, just happen,” he said.

Popoyi said he could see that Zondi was bleeding profusely from a gunshot to the head and there was “brain matter” on the ground next to him.

He’d earlier seen Mpandla get hit and fall down, writhing on the ground in pain. His R5 rifle was a short distance away from him.

Popoyi said as Mpandla lay there, the assailants continued to advance, still shooting and were only six to eight paces away from where Mpandla was lying.

Popoyi said he suddenly heard one of the attackers say they should leave because he’d been struck.

“They got into the white bakkie and left.”

He said he did not know if all the attackers had left. He initially saw “about eight” attackers armed with both large high calibre firearms and handguns.

Popoyi said he rushed to Mpandla who cried out to him for help. He had fetched the police Ford Ranger and as he lifted him into it, his other colleagues appeared to help him.

They took Mpandla to a nearby clinic.

Popoyi said when he returned to the scene of the shooting the Tactical Response Unit was there who said they would “sweep” the area for suspects who may have been left behind. He later heard shots being fired and someone say an ambulance was needed. He later heard that a suspect hiding in dense bush had opened fire on police, who shot back.

The case is proceeding

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