Mbombela - The four “Onderberg Ninjas”, who used guns and samurai swords to terrorise and rob Mpumalanga farmers, have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms.
Moses Silinda, 33, from Mangweni near Komatipoort, and Mozambican nationals Pieto Gwambe, 30, Sam Chauke, 40, and Veins Gavane, 30, were sentenced in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Wednesday.
Gwambe, Chauke and Gavane each pleaded guilty to a charge of being illegally in the country.
Magistrate Andre Geldenhuys found them guilty on all the charges they faced, including armed robbery, assault, kidnapping, and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
He sentenced Silinda and Gwambe to 21 years and three months’ imprisonment each, and Chauke and Gavane to 30 years and three months' imprisonment each.
Local residents, security companies, police, and SA National Defence Force members arrested them on November 23 2011. They were involved in a series of attacks and armed robberies on Malelane and Komatipoort farms.
Prosecutor Isabet Erwee said after their arrest, the crimes stopped.
“The accused were named Onderberg Ninjas because they got hold of firearms and swords. They committed violent armed robberies, and severely assaulted their victims,” Erwee said.
“One of the victims was so traumatised that after the attack, she was forced to leave her farm. They attacked their victims in the early hours of the morning and also during the afternoon, in broad daylight. They planned their attacks well and worked in a group,” said Erwee.
Geldenhuys said one of the victims, gardener Michael Mahlalela, was beaten up so badly he became deaf and was forced to stop working.
They attacked him at his employer’s home on November 5 2011. The expensive household items they stole from his employer were recovered at the three accused's homes in Mozambique.
On the day of their arrest, they attacked Gabriel Strydom and Beatrix Botha in their home in Hectorspruit using a firearm, sword, and bricks. Strydom sustained an open slash wound to his head. They stole his firearm. Geldenhuys said the couple were good citizens who ran a successful business on their farm.
The Strydoms called for help on a two-way radio and their neighbours, police, security companies launched a search, with the help of an SANDF helicopter. Three of the “ninjas” were caught hiding in a densely-wooded area.