Nurse tells of hold-up ordeal

2011-08-18 00:00

A NURSE who chanced upon the scene of a cash-in-transit heist, which claimed the lives of three people on the N11 near Ladysmith on October 10, 2009, described yesterday how she had simply bowed her head and prayed when she realised she and her passengers were at the mercy of a gang of armed robbers.

Deborah Shabalala gave evidence amid tight security in the high court in Pietermaritzburg before Judge Anton van Zyl and assessors yesterday at the trial of six men charged with robbery and murder.

She identified two of the accused, Philemon Nhleko and Ewat Ndubuko, as having been at the scene.

She told the court that Nhleko had demanded she hand over her car keys to him, while Ndubuko had stood on top of an embankment “with a big firearm” and at one stage told the other robbers they “must be fast because they are coming now”, she said.

Shabalala picked out photographs of four individuals whom she recognised from the crime scene at a police photo identity parade, including the two accused.

Shablalala said she was driving from Newcastle to Ladysmith that morning with her son and some people to whom she had offered a lift when she observed some “collided cars” in the distance.

The vehicles involved were a G4 security cash van and a white truck.

She approached the scene intending to help any survivors because she is a nurse.

As she got close to the scene everything was “quiet” and no one was about. Then three cars approached from the opposite direction and “squeezed” between the accident scene and an embankment. A white car parked in front of her and a gang of males got out.

At first Shabalala thought they were security guards for the cash vehicle, but then realised they were not in uniform and that it was a robbery.

“I then thought of praying and I bowed my head and prayed. But before that, I saw a group of males going to the white truck and another group going to the money transport truck …

“Whilst still praying I was distracted by a big noise like some blasting at the G4 truck. I opened my eyes and I saw some papers flying around.”

Shabalala saw the robbers “rescuing” people from the white truck.

“I continued praying and after some time I heard my door opening and a voice was saying I must get out.”

She realised she was alone in the car and that all her passengers had already alighted.

“I tried to loosen the seatbelt and he said for the second time that I must get out,” said Shabalala.

As she got out of the car the man had demanded her car keys.

“I cried … There was one that was continuously watching us and that one said to me ‘you’ll have your car back soon’.”

She lay down with the others at the rear of the car.

Whilst lying down she heard another “big sound” like a collision.

After a while the cars started up and drove off.

Shabalala said that after the robbers had left she went to see if there were survivors.

She came across a man trapped in the white truck whom they could not free, while two others were in the G4 security van. All were alive at that stage, she said.

SIDEBAR: The state alleges that the robbers deliberately arranged for a truck to ram into the G4 security van, which overturned and that they used explosives at the robbery scene to blast open the safe to access the money. They escaped with R692 000.

G4 security guards, George van Tonder and Sibusiso Phakathi, as well as an alleged accomplice to the robbery, Ottoman Msimango were killed.

The accused are; Jerody Mthimunye,34, Philemon Nhleko,38, Ewat Ndubuko, Zikethela Sokhela, 30, former Ladysmith dog unit member, Siyabonga Nkwanyana,39, and Mandla Maloi, 37 .

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