Mooi River Looting: 48 go free

2018-05-03 17:02
Six suspects charged with theft appeared at the Mooi River Magistrate’s Court after they were found in possession of stolen goods following the burning and looting of trucks on the N3 near the Mooi River toll plaza on Sunday night.

Six suspects charged with theft appeared at the Mooi River Magistrate’s Court after they were found in possession of stolen goods following the burning and looting of trucks on the N3 near the Mooi River toll plaza on Sunday night. (Nhlanla Nkosi)

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The police have withdrawn charges against 48 of the 56 people who were arrested when trucks were burnt and looted on the N3 near Mooi River toll plaza on Sunday night.

KZN Premier Willies Mchunu meanwhile issued a statement last night after a Provincial Executive Council (Cabinet) meeting saying he has called an urgent meeting with freight industry captains and the logistics sector to devise a plan to end the attacks on trucks travelling along the N3 highway near Mooi River.

The violence has resulted in destruction to property estimated to cost millions of rands. The torching of trucks is said to be the work of people who claim to be against the use of foreign truck drivers by the trucking industry.

The planned meeting is expected to be attended by ministers of Labour, Home Affairs, Police and Transport.

Police arrested a total of 56 people in connection with Sunday’s violent attacks when 18 trucks were destroyed and 17 others damaged and looted. To the surprise of members of the media only eight people were charged at court on Wednesday with theft.

Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said that 48 suspects were released on Tuesday due to insufficient evidence against them.

“The other eight suspects were remanded in custody as they were found in possession of stolen goods. No one has been arrested in connection with the actual burning of the trucks but we are still investigating the matter,” she said.

Mbhele said they had deployed their Public Order Policing (POP) unit, the K9 unit and local police to the Mooi River area where they were still working.

The eight remaining suspects appeared at the Mooi River Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday facing charges of theft. Only six of the eight suspects appeared before court while the other two, who are minors, appeared in the magistrate’s chambers.

The minors were later released into the care of their parents.

The names of the six suspects who appeared in court are Wiseman Mthalane (38), Simphiwe Sithole (47), Sandile Khwela (28), Mzwakhe Khumalo (30), Xolisile Lamula (24) and Nkanyiso Sikhosana (32).

They were charged with stealing goods including boxes of sausages, pork burgers, ribs, boerewors patties, steaklets, chicken fillets, bottles of mayonnaise and loaves of white bread.

Ryan Peo, the prosecutor in the matter, asked that the matter be adjourned to next Monday as they still need to verify the suspects’ information before they apply for bail and to allow further investigations to be conducted.

Magistrate Gerrie Muller adjourned the case to Monday. The suspects were remanded in custody at the Mooi River police station to allow those investigating the case easy access to them.

Bruntville community members who attended the court case on Wednesday called on the police to investigate the role of truck drivers in the burning and looting of trucks in the area.

A livid community member, who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity, said it was very strange that the only people arrested were community members who had looted the already burning trucks.

“I find it very strange that not even one truck driver was attacked during the mayhem on Sunday night, not even one.

“The police must leave us alone and deal with the actual problem.

“We as community members have no business burning the trucks but because most people in this area are unemployed they decided to take the food in the already burning trucks,” said the woman.

She went on to tell The Witness how she witnessed the police going door to door in Bruntville in search of the stolen goods.

“The police were using crowbars to break the locks of houses which were locked. They have been going all around the townships since Monday.

“Apparently they search the house and if they find anything they arrest whoever is at home at that moment.”

The woman said there was a specific new brand of mealie meal that was not available in stores yet, which when found in homes had helped the police identify the looters.

“What is sad though is that the police ended up arresting innocent people who were not involved. They were arresting people who were walking home from work and knew nothing about this whole thing, I guess that explains why so many people have been released already,” she said.

Another community member, who also asked not to be named in fear of victimisation, told The Witness that she heard that some residents were still selling the stolen goods at night.

“On Sunday night, one man went past with a huge box of toilet rolls which I hear he is now selling at a very reasonable price. I see nothing wrong with that because those toilet rolls were probably going to burn to ashes anyway,” she said.

When The Witness visited the Townsview section of Bruntville which faces the N3 to ask residents their views on the matter, they acted as if it was the first time they had heard of the incident and said they knew nothing about it.

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