Thirty years each for cop killers

2015-10-15 21:02


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Pretoria - Three hijackers who "executed" the two policemen who caught them were on Thursday each sentenced in the Pretoria High Court to 30 years effective imprisonment.

Oupa Mokoena, Ezekiel Mahlangu and Geelboy Xaba were sentenced for the murders of policemen Bhekuyise Mahlalela and Lefu Mokoena near Sunrise Town in Zonkizizwe in 2011.

They were also convicted on charges of kidnapping, four of robbery with aggravating circumstances, pointing a firearm and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Mokoena and Xaba, who later admitted guilt to all charges, asked to meet the families of the murdered policemen and quietly spoke to them before the trial started.

Their advocates told the court they had apologised for what they did and asked for forgiveness. Except for one of the policemen's brothers, all the family members were prepared to forgive them.

Mokoena, a taxi driver, said in his plea explanation he only realised afterwards one of the men he had shot to death was his uncle, which caused him considerable distress.

He said he had become religious in prison; deeply regretted what he did and prayed for his sins and his victims daily.

Ran out of petrol

Mahlangu, who repeatedly told the court he was not a criminal and had nothing to do with the murders, ignored the family and turned his head away while the others talked to them.

He was previously sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for robbery.

The three men had hijacked a couple's bakkie and kidnapped them, but had to stop next to the road when they ran out of petrol.

When the two policemen caught them in the act, there was a shoot-out during which Mahlangu and Xaba fired the shots which killed the policemen.

Mokoena initially hid in the bushes, but when he heard the shots, also stepped forward and fired a shot before his gun jammed. They then flagged down and hijacked a car to get away.

Judge John Murphy said it was "very serious" the murder victims were policemen executed in cold blood while carrying out their duties.

'Threat to state's security'

"All South Africans know crime in our country is burgeoning out of control. Our last line of defence in this atrocious situation are our police officers.

"These are the men and women who put their lives at risk to offer security to the community. Criminals who take on policemen and who inflict harm or fatality should know they will go to prison for a very long time," he said.

The judge said policemen should know the court would honour and respect their efforts and they could expect some measure of respect and protection.

He said the increasing number of murders on policemen could be regarded as a threat to the state's security.

Judge Murphy found there were substantial and compelling reasons why life sentences should not be imposed.

The shoot-out occurred in the context of a possible arrest where the accused were "no doubt" in a state of anxiety. They were young men from deprived backgrounds who went on a frolic that went disastrously wrong.

Mokoena and Xaba publicly confessed their guilt, which may be the beginning of getting forgiveness from their families, the victim's families and God, he said.

Although Mahlangu unrealistically stuck to a false version, he had played a lesser role in the murders, the judge said.

Read more on:    pretoria  |  crime

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