'Remorseless' Stellenbosch train robbers sentenced to 20 years

Two men received an effective 20 years in prison and a tongue lashing for robbing train commuters on the Stellenbosch line last year. 

"The victims have no other form of transportation," said an infuriated Magistrate Fezile Tonisi in the Regional Court on Friday. "Members of society are sick and tired of these forms of crimes that happen every day."

Tonisi said when firearms were involved, people get killed. 

In this case, a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver was used to rob three people on a train near Du Toit Station on June 11, 2018.

He said that in this case, the victims were not physically harmed, but one told him on the witness stand: "I thought I was going to die."

"Victims ask the government and police for help all the time," boomed the usually measured Tonisi at Thys Seekoei, 43, from Paarl and Jeffrey Lukas, 39, from Stellenbosch.

He convicted them on two charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances, one charge of attempted robbery, and one charge of the possession of a firearm. 

Stolen property

The incidents occurred at around 19:00 on June 11. Among the items stolen from victims Peter Mpalane, Kwanyiyo Dangazela and Cliff Jenga were a matric certificate, identity documents, books and cellphones. The items were never recovered.

In his judgment, Tonisi said that the victims got off the train and chased after the men who had run in different directions. After catching one of the robbers, they demanded to know where their possessions were before calling the police.

Police arrested the second robber on June 13 and recovered the firearm at a different location. 

Tonisi found that although only one robber had brandished the firearm, they had acted in common purpose and were found guilty of all four of the charges put to them. 

He said their silence was a right, but without giving evidence and showing remorse, he could, and did, accept the State's case against them.

Prosecutor Derick Smith submitted, after the two men were found guilty, that Seekoei had 16 previous cases that ran the gamut from theft to robbery. In 2006, he was also sentenced to 10 years in prison for rape. 

Lukas had nine previous cases, from housebreaking, rape and robbery to drugs.

Their lawyers gave some insight into their circumstances in mitigation of sentence, telling the court that Seekoei had left school early, was unmarried, had no children, no fixed job and sold fruit for a living earning around R300 a week. 

Lukas left school in Grade 9, lived with his mother, was unmarried, had a small child who lived elsewhere and sold clothes and shoes when he could.

Tonisi said that he could find no reason to deviate from the maximum sentences provided by an act of Parliament for violent crime. 

His options were: 15 years if it was a first robbery, 20 years if it was a second, and 25 if it was a third. 

Seekoei had four previous robbery convictions and Lukas three. 

For that reason, they were sentenced to 20 years each for the robberies and attempted robbery, and another three for possessing the firearm. The sentences will run concurrently. 

Tonisi said they had the right to appeal their sentences and conviction.

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