Acting Hawks head Lieutenant General Yolisa Matakata has hailed the lengthy prison sentences handed to 13 men who were responsible for a cash-in-transit heist almost four years ago.
On Thursday, the Bloemfontein High Court, sitting in Kroonstad, found the 13 men guilty of murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravated circumstances, theft and the possession of unlicensed firearms. The accused are aged between 32 and 39.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the gang carried out the "brazen heist" in August 2014.
"The armed robbers attacked a Bidvest Protea Coin vehicle and the Hawks Tactical Operations Management Section (TOMS), [which] had information about the planned robbery, with the assistance of the SAPS Task force members, engaged the heavily-armed group in a shootout," he said.
"During the exchange, four of the robbers were fatally wounded. The teams managed to arrest 13 suspects on the scene, [and] a large number of firearms and stolen vehicles were seized."
Mulaudzi said Lucky Nhlangulela, 39, Seun Petrus Ntatakazi, 38, Sekoja Edwin Mofokeng, 39, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, 36, Xolane Maliwa, 37, Lerato Desmond Thato, 37, Thabang Mokhohlane, 30, Nthetelelo Ziphokuhle Myando, 37, Zolile Bobby Magwa, 38, Joseph Moeketsi Molefe, 33, Teboho Floyd Molefe, 36, Mduduzi Joseph Mhlambi, 32, were each sentenced to four life terms plus 87 years in jail.
Chesley Mlawuza Mnisi, 37, was sentenced to 164 years behind bars.
Mulaudzi added that Matakata hailed the sentences as a milestone in the fight against cash-in-transit heists.
"Our investigations and collaborative efforts with other law enforcement agencies [have] yielded good results, despite the fact the case took long to be finalised. It is this eloquent, diligent investigation that has enabled us to ensure that all the individuals involved in the robbery receive lengthy sentences," Matakata said.
"We have however, been experiencing an upsurge of similar attacks of late in the country and we, together with the SAPS, are working hard to apprehend these dangerous groups that are bringing fear to our communities and attacking the cash services sector. Our combined efforts are yielding good results where we have seen successful arrests and prosecution of some of the brazen criminals."