Copper thieves get life sentences

2018-01-24 06:00

Eleven copper thieves that operated in Free State Goldfields towns will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

The Kroonstad High Court sentenced each of the accused to over 1 000 years’ imprisonment on finding them guilty on all charges, including esca­ping from the Senekal Correctional Centre.

The accused are Naftali Makhuvela (34), Moses Makhuvela (35), Clement Mbembe (44), Elvis Mchunu (44), Jonas Mkhonto (32), Kenneth Kaitana Mhlongo (37), Ronald George (39), Alfred Masithela (40), Tsietsi Stephen Dichakane (42), Themba Mantile (37) and Herbeth Mnyamane (26).

According to the police investigation, the accused are responsible for the theft of copper cables in the areas of Thabong in Welkom, Ventersburg, Virginia, Odendaalsrus, Allanridge and Bronville from August 2015 until 2016. Capt. Phumelelo Dhlamini, police spokesperson, says the court sentenced each of the 11 accused to 1 166 years effective imprisonment recently after a lengthy trial. He says the escapees were found guilty of aggravated armed robbery, theft of copper cables and escape from custody, as well as the attemp­ted murder of a prison warden.

Dhlamini says the men were arres­ted in 2016 in Senekal in connection with copper cable theft. On the day of their daring escape from the Senekal Correctional Centre, Dhlamini says one of the accused shot a prison officer with a firearm they had smuggled into the correctional centre.

“While awaiting trial at the Senekal Correctional Centre in January 2016, the accused managed to smuggle in a firearm, which they used to overpower on-duty correctional officers. They robbed wardens of their cellphones and took prison keys to escape. One of them shot an officer before fleeing from custody,” says Dhla­mini.

The accused were re-arrested and detained in Kroonstad until their sentencing recently.

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