Pietermaritzburg - Three men on trial for an attempted heist at Richmond’s Capitec Bank and multiple other counts including murder and attempted murder failed in a bid to be acquitted in the high court on Wednesday.
Following the ruling, one of the three men, Thulani Doncabe (41) of Umlazi, started testifying in his defence but his evidence was interrupted when one of the lawyers in the case fell ill and requested the case be adjourned until today.
Lawyers representing the three men — Doncabe, Siboniso Mpanza (20) and Sandile Shongwe (34) — had urged Judge Rishi Seegobin to discharge them without placing them on their defence.
Doncabe’s lawyer, Mbongiseni Mathonsi, limited his application for his acquittal to two counts of vehicle theft only.
Advocates Luke Phungula and Mdu Mvune, however, asked the court to acquit Mpanza and Shongwe on all 24 counts facing them.
Judge Seegobin refused all three applications and found that, based on the evidence led by the prosecution, each of the trio had a case to answer in respect of all the charges.
He acquitted the men only on one charge of attempted murder (of civilian Phillip Ndairo), in connection with which the state agreed there was no evidence led.
The state alleges that all three men were part of a group of attackers who launched an attempted heist at Capitec Bank in Richmond on January 27, 2014, which led to a shootout in the streets outside the bank.
During the incident, security officer Sicelo Phungula was shot dead as he made his way into the bank with a cash box containing R300 000 to fill the ATM vault.
When the robbers got hold of the box, however, it imploded and dyed the cash inside with ink.
The assailants thereafter abandoned the loot and fled, taking only Phungula’s firearm.
Police officers in the vicinity who heard the gunfire tried to stop the attackers and a shootout followed during which civilian bystanders — Hlengiwe Jama, Musa Phiri, Jones King and Nonhle Khumalo — were injured.
The state led evidence that the attackers fled in stolen getaway cars, which included a Toyota Run-X and a Corolla. These were abandoned near a quarry in exchange for a Toyota Hilux.
It is alleged the robbers opened fire on police from the vicinity of the Hilux, killing Sergeant Thamsanqa Zondi and critically wounding Constable Sbonelo Mpanza.
Three alleged members of the robber gang — Andile Hlongwane, Siphithemba Mtshali and Senzo Mtolo — were killed during subsequent searches of the area and shootouts involving members of the tactical response team and dog unit policemen.
A dog unit member, Warrant Officer Reeno Dayaram, testified in the trial that his dog had tracked three suspects to a sugar cane field in Patheni.
Dayaram said he arrested Doncabe and Mpanza after finding them hiding in the sugar cane.
The case is continuing.