Pietermaritzburg - Nine of the 10 men charged with the murder of a Pietermaritzburg policeman and several ATM bombings in the Midlands were convicted in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday, after a marathon trial and judgment.
Judge Yvonne Mbatha convicted the nine men on multiple charges (which total 31) of robbery with aggravating circumstances, contravening the Explosives Act and causing an explosion, malicious damage to property, attempted murder, murder and charges of unlawful possession of explosives, machine rifles, prohibited firearms and ammunition.
They are: Thembela Ngubane, 27, Menziiwe Mdakane, 28, Sifiso Mdakane, 32, Sifiso Khubeka, 28, Sibongiseni Msibi, 33, Sphelele Dubazane, 27, Muthikabani Buthelezi, 31, Mthenjwa Buthelezi 27, and Lungisani Dladla, 32.
All hail from Johannesburg and live in either the Soweto or Benoni areas.
A 10th accused, Siphiwe Mabizela, 34, who was charged with unlawful possession of firearms and a count of robbery with aggravating circumstances, was acquitted because of insufficient evidence.
The men all pleaded not guilty and chose not to testify in their defence.
Judge Mbatha found that the men formed a syndicate with the sole purpose of targeting ATMs in KwaZulu-Natal. The crimes were all committed in the period from September 28, 2012 to January 13, 2013.
The men were convicted of killing K9 unit constable Vidhur Jadoo, who died in a shoot-out in Howick on November 7, 2012, as well as bombing ATMs in Howick, Merrivale, Nottingham Road and Greytown, and the murders of Sizwe Gule and Patricia Nkosi in Utrecht in December 2012.
Eight of the men were arrested in Jozini on January 13, 2013, and found in possession of 119 AK-47 rounds, three AK-47s, a .45 ACP pistol, explosives and electric detonators.
Mbatha said the state had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt, in the light of cellphone and DNA evidence, as well as the men being arrested and found in possession of firearms and explosives.
Cellphone evidence placed the men on the scenes of the crime and linked them to each other. The firearms found in their possession were also ballistically linked to all the ATM bombings.
Items found in the men’s possession that were forensically tested proved that they were contaminated with remnants of commercial explosives.
“This proves the association of the gang with the ATM bombings, and that they were in possession of these types of chemicals. No innocent explanation was given by any of the accused as to why they were in possession of these explosive chemicals,” the judge said.
Mbatha said the State had also successfully proved the accused had foreseen that their reckless conduct could result in the deaths of innocent people.
“They armed themselves with high-calibre firearms and fired ruthlessly at anything and anyone to ensure their escape from the robbery scenes,” she said.
The judge further said all the accused lived and worked in Johannesburg and committed the crimes in KwaZulu-Natal.
“This on its own, plus the use of commercial explosives, shows they planned their missions to commit these crimes and had the single intention to gain money from the ATM robberies,” Mbatha said.
Argument in aggravation and mitigation of sentence will be heard on Wednesday.