Durban - Five Durban policemen have been given suspended sentences and fines for their “despicable”, mafia-type crimes against innocent civilians, including an uMlazi mother.
But, despite being found guilty of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, common assault and theft - as well as being about to be fired from their jobs - the five, dressed in black suits, white shirts and red ties, smiled as they stepped out of the dock in the Durban Regional Court on Friday.
“Not only is it difficult, but embarrassing to have to sentence people who should not be in the dock, but in the witness stand,” said magistrate Trevor Levitt.
“We are supposed to be on the same side of fighting crime. It’s sad to have to sentence fellow officers of the court, and unfortunately it is becoming all too common,” he told a court gallery packed with police officers.
According to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate the men, acting together with civilians, had robbed people in their homes and planted drugs to force them to pay a bribe to avoid being arrested.
Constables Bukani Mlandeni Dlamini, 31, Kenneth Gwala, 35, Ayanda Gwexa, 34, Mandlakayise Khuzwayo, 34, and Good-enough Dlamuka, 36, are all members of the Protection Security Services at the Cavendish SAPS in Malvern, and were arrested by IPID in July 2012.
One of the officers has since transferred to Gauteng.
On Friday, Levitt sentenced them to two years’ imprisonment for assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and common assault. This sentence was suspended for five years.
He also sentenced Dlamini to six months in jail for theft - suspended for five years, and ordered ordered him to reimburse his victim the R5 200 he had stolen.
Dlamini, Gwala, Khuzwayo and Dlamuka were also each sentenced to a R400 fine, or 40 days imprisonment, on a separate count of common assault.
However, Levitt did not declare them unfit to possess a firearm, as they were still members of the police service.
uMlazi resident Nhlanhla Mbambo had testified that the officers had stormed into his home in June 2012, manhandled his mother and robbed her of money she had been paid out from a stokvel.
He said he was handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police vehicle, which was driven around the township before stopping to round up four more men, two of whom he knew.
He said he could see they had been assaulted and testified to seeing one of the men being tortured with two plastic bags.
Mbambo’s mother had reported the assault at her home.
The court heard from their attorney on Friday that the officers were to be dismissed from the police service.
In sentencing, Levitt said:
“The court gave serious consideration to a period of imprisonment with no possibility of a fine,” he said. “You are no ordinary citizens, and still members of the police force.
“The public should never ever have to complain about misbehaviour on the part of the police, so when you behaved in this despicable fashion, you never thought the victims would take the matter further, but you have paid the price for your assault and theft.
“Having heard that you are to be discharged from the police force is an indication of how seriously your superiors have treated the matter.”