Robbers get 5 x life, plus 186

2016-05-11 11:30
Cash in transit robbers Thulani Doncabe (in front), followed by Siboniso Mpanza and Sandile Shongwe make their way to the court cells. They were each handed five life sentences plus 186 years’ imprisonment by Judge Rishi Seegobin.

Cash in transit robbers Thulani Doncabe (in front), followed by Siboniso Mpanza and Sandile Shongwe make their way to the court cells. They were each handed five life sentences plus 186 years’ imprisonment by Judge Rishi Seegobin. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - A high court judge paid tribute to the “brave policemen and women of this province who daily put their lives on the line” when he sentenced three cash in transit robbers to five life sentences plus jail terms totalling 186 years on Tuesday.

The sentences all run concurrently.

Thulani Doncabe (41) Siboniso Mpanza (24), and Sandile Shongwe (36), all of Durban were convicted of 23 counts including car theft, robbery with aggravating circumstances, five murders and multiple attempted murders arising from an attack on G4S security guards who were delivering money to an ATM at Capitec Bank, Richmond, on January 27, 2014.

The offences were described by Judge Rishi Seegobin as “vicious and brutal”.

Among the murder victims in the case were Richmond policeman Sergeant Thamsanqa Zondi (who died in an ambush) and G4S security guard Sicelo Phungula, both of whom were gunned down in cold blood while performing their duties.

Seegobin hailed the actions of Zondi’s colleague Sbonelo Mpandla (of Richmond SAPS) who survived critical gunshot injuries and who had “displayed a type of bravery that is unsurpassed” in the face of grave danger.

The judge said he had no doubt Mpandla was responsible for shooting one of the assailants known as Bhokobhoko in the legs when he got near the vehicle where Mpandla and Zondi were.

“It was this act that finally persuaded the other robbers to flee the [quarry] scene,” he said.

He said Doncabe, Mpanza, Shongwe and their accomplices had earlier turned the quiet town of Richmond “into a war zone” outside Capitec bank. Armed with high calibre firearms including assault rifles, the robbers had ruthlessly exposed innocent civilians to grave danger, he said.

“No community can tolerate such conduct,” he said.

He said Phungula was shot at close range as he took money to refill the ATM at Capitec Bank. He was only 33 years old and, as the only male person in his household, was responsible for supporting his sisters and their children and his death had left his family without a breadwinner.

He said Sergeant Zondi was shot down in a “cowardly ambush” set when the robbers realised that police were on their heels.

“By all accounts Zondi was a dedicated policeman. He died doing what he was qualified to do best. That is to try to maintain law and order in a country ravaged by crime.”

The judge said Zondi was also a family man. His young son was still undergoing counselling to deal with his death and his murder also had a profound effect on his brother, Ndabezinhle (also a policeman), who was also in pursuit of the robbers that day.

“One can only imagine how traumatised he was to learn of his brother’s death and to have to see him lying injured on the road.”

The judge said the effects of the shooting also had an effect on the civilian victims who were simply going about their daily lives when they were indiscriminately shot as the robbers fled the Capitec bank crime scene.

The judge sentenced each of the three convicted men to eight years’ imprisonment on each of two counts of theft of motor vehicles that were used in the heist; to 20 years’ imprisonment for robbery with aggravating circumstances; life imprisonment for each of the murders of Phungula, Sergeant Zondi as well as three fellow robbers (Andile Hlongwane, Siphithemba Mtshali (aka Bhokobhoko) and Senzo Mtolo), and to 10 years’ imprisonment on each of the remaining 15 counts of attempted murder of civilians and police officers.

In conclusion, Seegobin specially commended the investigating officer in the case, Jurgen Rencken, and all the other policemen involved for the way they carried out the investigations.

He also thanked the defence representatives as well as State Advocate Candy Kander who he said “discharged her brief [as prosecutor] in a highly professional and efficient manner”.

The sentences handed down by the judge were greeted with satisfaction by the majority of the packed public gallery and some relatives of the late Sergeant Zondi burst into song.

Nobuhle Mbatha, Zondi’s sister, told the media the late policeman’s family were happy that justice was served and they could move forward with their lives.

“But at the end of the day, nothing can ever bring back our brother,” she added.

Judge Rishi Seegobin said evidence by Willem van der Merwe of Sabric (SA Banking Risk Information Centre) painted a grim picture of cash in transit robberies across South Africa in the past four years.

In a total of 895 cash in transit heists, 170 people were injured and 78 killed across the country in that period.

However, the statistics revealed “some hope” that in KZN there seemed to have been a steep decline in cash in transit robberies since 2014, he said.

Seegobin said this can only be ascribed to “excellent work being done by the brave policemen and women of this province who, like Sergeant Thamsanqa Zondi, continue to daily put their lives on the line.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  atm  |  crime  |  court  |  capitec

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