‘We can never heal or forget’

2016-05-10 08:45

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Pietermaritzburg - While he is lucky to be alive, former Richmond policeman Sbonelo Mpandla says sometimes he does “not feel so lucky to be living a life like this”.

He is referring to his life after he was critically wounded and his SAPS colleague, Sergeant Thamsanqa Zondi, was killed in pursuit of an armed gang that had shot dead a security guard during an attempted cash-in-transit heist at Capitec Bank in Richmond on January 27, 2014.

Mpandla was one of the victims of the Capitec bank robbery and 22 related crimes for which Thulani Doncabe (41), Siboniso Mpanza (24) and Sandile Shongwe (36), all from the Durban area, will be sentenced by Judge Rishi Seegobin today.

In one of several victim impact statements handed to court by state advocate Candy Kander, Mpandla said his life changed the day of the shooting.

“The scars on my body have become a constant reminder of that terrible day. The day I almost died, the day I lost my friend and a colleague. I ask myself every day, ‘Why did I go there?’”.

Mpandla said he is now so fearful he has tinted his car windows so people cannot see him. He feels isolated from the world and takes anti-depressant medication.

Of the shooting, he says, “I can still remember hearing the gunshots; I could feel they were coming for me. When they pierced my body, it felt like I had swallowed an ice cube or something hot. I was concerned about my breathing and my heart beat to feel that I was still alive. I had no idea I was going to make it and I had to pretend that I was dead.”

He said he and colleagues used to go the extra mile at work. “I did not care if it was in the area, if it was extra time or not, as long as we were fighting crime … After my colleague’s death, I always remember how he died. We had worked hard for each other and we protected each other. That day I could not,” he said.

Zondi’s relatives and the sister and fiancée of murdered G4S security guard Sicelo Phungula also described how the loss of their loved ones and breadwinners of the families had taken their toll financially, emotionally and on their health.

Zondi’s father suffered a stroke following his son’s death.

“We can never heal or forget about Thami. The last time we saw Thami was when he was leaving for work, and he never returned. Only his body returned,” said Nomathemba Zondi, on behalf of the family.

She said the family were hoping for justice in order to heal and concentrate on “other things”.

Kander urged the judge to impose life sentences on the three robbers for all the murders of which they were convicted — Phungula, Zondi, and three members of the robber gang: Andile Hlongwane, Siphithemba Mtshali (known as Bhokobhoko) and Senzo Mtolo, who were killed in gun battles with police. Several civilians were shot and wounded in the street battle that erupted outside Capitec Bank as the robbers jumped into getaway vehicles and fled.

Zondi and Mpandla were shot when they drove into an ambush set up by the robbers outside Richmond.

Kander said the robbery was planned with “military-style precision” by the heavily armed gang, who had no hesitation in using their weapons when confronted by police. “They displayed vehement, brutal resistance, endangering life and limb of innocent civilians and police officials,” she said.

Mpanza and Shongwe maintain their innocence, while Doncabe yesterday indicated through his attorney that he was “remorseful” for his involvement.

Meanwhile, Seegobin was told by Willem van der Merwe, a forensic specialist from Sabric (SA Banking Risk Information Centre) that a total of 895 cash-in-transit robberies occurred in South Africa from January 1, 2012 to April 19 this year, resulting in cash losses totalling R336 878 749.

Of these, 166 (with losses of R30 491 754) were in KZN, representing 18,5% of the total incidents.

Seegobin questioned why, with today’s technology, the industry cannot find a way to avoid using security vehicles to transport cash. He said innocent lives are put at risk every time a vehicle delivers money to an ATM. He asked Van der Merwe to raise this issue in the industry.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court

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