‘I felt my skin tearing’

2015-05-06 09:20

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RICHMOND policeman Sbonelo Mpandla, who was critically injured while pursuing an armed gang following a foiled robbery at Capitec Bank last January, broke down describing the traumatic events in the high court yesterday.

After being felled by two bullets that struck him on his right side and passed right through his body, and losing possession of his R5 rifle, Mpandla said he initially “played dead” on the roadside. But as he saw two of the gunmen getting closer to him still firing their high-calibre weapons, he crawled a short distance to retrieve his rifle. At this point in his evidence Mpandla broke down and sobbed.

When he resumed testifying, Mpandla said he had grabbed his rifle while the two gunmen were just four to five paces from him.

Mpandla said as he grabbed his rifle and touched the trigger two shots went off as the weapon was already cocked. The gun was pointing to the side of the road, not at the attackers, at that stage. At the sound of the gunshots the two attackers who had been advancing took cover behind the gang’s bakkie.

Mpandla said he pulled his firearm around to point it towards the assailants and heard someone say, “Let us leave. We are being shot at.”

As he was still lying on the ground on his stomach he could see people moving by looking underneath the police van. He saw someone approach the tail-light and the barrel of a gun emerge at the side of the vehicle.

“I thought that I should just shoot his leg before he even appears because I didn’t know what he would do or how many rounds he would fire,” said Mpandla.

He said he fired about twice and believes he struck the man on his right leg. The person fell at the side of the van.

He said someone had opened the canopy of the gang’s bakkie from the inside and he fired again. They then closed the door.

Shortly afterwards he heard a passenger door shut and the bakkie drove away.

Mpandla said he’d thought the person he had wounded might still be lying at the side of the road, but after the bakkie left he was gone. “I think he dragged himself and went,” he said.

After the bakkie left, Mpandla stood up and tried to get into a “better position” in case the gang members stopped and came back. But, he said, as he lifted his rifle, he felt his body burning and dropped the firearm.

Mpandla said he lifted his shirt and saw a small hole from which he was bleeding and as he lifted his arm his intestines came out. “I could feel my skin tearing,” he said.

Mpandla said his colleagues put him into the back of their police vehicle, but en route to the clinic the vehicle broke down (as a result of being damaged by the gunfire) and he was transferred to a second vehicle.

When he eventually got to St Anne’s Hospital Mpandla lost consciousness. When he woke in ICU he was told he’d been in a coma for three days.

Mpandla identified one of the three men on trial — Thulani Doncabe — as one of the gunmen he saw shooting at him and his colleagues.

Doncabe, Siboniso Mpanza and Sandile Shongwe have pleaded not guilty to multiple charges arising from the foiled bank heist on January 27 last year.

G4S security guard Sicelo Phungula and Mpandla’s colleague Thamsanqa Zondi were shot dead during the ­incident.

Alleged gang members Andile Hlongwane, Siphithemba Mtshali and Senzo Mtolo were also killed during ensuing gun battles following the ­attempted robbery

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