Pietermaritzburg - One of three men facing multiple charges linked to an attempted cash-in-transit robbery at Capitec Bank in Richmond will apply to be acquitted on Wednesday.
This emerged yesterday shortly after state advocate Candy Kander closed the prosecution’s case in the trial, which has been held on a stop-start basis over several months starting in May last year.
Advocate Mdu Mvune, representing Sandile Shongwe (34) of Umlazi, told Judge Rishi Seegobin that he intends bringing an application today for Shongwe’s discharge.
The details of the application will only become known today, however. Mvune said he needed time to prepare since the defence were taken by surprise when Kander closed the prosecution’s case without calling any further witnesses yesterday, he said.
The other two accused, Thulani Doncabe (40) also of Umlazi, and Siboniso Mpanza (20) of KwaMashu, have still to decide whether to give evidence in their defence.
However, Judge Seegobin said he would consider the application for Shongwe’s discharge first, and thereafter all three accused would be in a position to decide how to proceed with their case.
They also now have the option of calling defence witnesses to support their versions.
The trio face a total of 24 charges, including theft of vehicles, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder and attempted murder.
Among the evidence that allegedly links the trio to the crimes were their cellphone records — an expert, Theresa Botha, gave evidence for the state in that regard.
The robbery at Capitec Bank in 2014 was foiled when the stolen cash imploded and stained the bank notes with dye.
But a security guard and a policeman, as well as three members of the robber gang were shot dead during the robbery and ensuing chase.
Civilians caught in the middle of an ensuing gun battle were injured.
A number of witnesses have been called to testify on behalf of the prosecution, including Bhekumdeni Dladla, who drove a Securicor armoured vehicle to collect cash from the bank on January 27, 2014.
Dladla testified that he heard a gunshot just after his colleague, Sicelo Phungula, entered the bank with a cash box containing R300 000 to fill the ATMs.
Moments later two men ran out of the bank with firearms, and one jumped into a Toyota Corolla which sped off. After briefly chasing the getaway car, Dladla, who worked for Group 4 Cash Services (G4S), returned to the scene, where he waited for help in line with standing orders.
Phungula was killed in the incident.
The court has also heard testimony from policemen who pursued the robbers from the scene, resulting in the death of Sergeant Thamsanqa Zondi and critical wounding of Constable Sbonelo Mpandla.
The court heard that Zondi was shot in the head when he and other policemen tracked the gang’s getaway bakkie to a quarry on the outskirts of Richmond.
The bakkie sped away after the shooting, and was later abandoned in the Patheni area.
One wounded gang member, identified as Bhokobhoko, was arrested in the vicinity of the bakkie, but later died.
Other suspects were tracked down in the sugar cane and plantation next to the road, where another shootout between the robbers and police occurred.
Before the trial started in May last year, the court was informed that a potential state witness in the case, John Vezi of Umlazi, an alleged accomplice to the attempted heist, had been shot dead just weeks earlier by unknown assailants.
Vezi’s shooting was not linked by police to the three accused before court, but another potential state witness fled and went into hiding in the wake of his death.
The case is proceeding.