Mbombela - A former cigarette smuggler testified in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Monday against three former traffic officers he turned in for allegedly soliciting bribes.
Mzwandile Makamu, 28, Comfort Msithini, 28, and Henry Banda, 31, were arrested in July 2011 for allegedly demanding R14,000 in bribes from Japhta Sambo, who smuggled contraband cigarettes between KaMhlushwa and Mashishing (formerly Lydenburg), a Sapa correspondent reported.
They were fired by the Mpumalanga department of community safety, security and liaison after a disciplinary hearing in September 2012 found them, and a fourth officer, guilty of taking a bribe from a taxi driver in Barberton.
They have pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption in the Sambo matter and are out on bail of R2 000 each.
“In the first incident, I paid the accused R3 000 after (Makamo) searched my car and found the illegal cigarettes,” Sambo told the court on Monday.
He testified that they took him to a bank where he withdrew the money, then drove him back to his car on the N4.
“I had asked them to escort me further because I didn't want to be stopped by their colleagues. They escorted me until Matsulu,” he told the court.
On a second occasion, he was stopped near the Nkomazi Toll Plaza.
“One officer, whom I don't know, came to me. I told him what I had in my car to save myself from arrest. He then went to a group of officers (which included Banda). He came back and told me they want R10 000, but I only had R9 000,” said Sambo. He said he gave them all the money.
“On the third occasion, I tried to run away, but they said they would arrest me for real. (Banda) asked me how much I was giving them that day. I had only R800 and they wanted R6 000. I lied to them saying I would bring them the balance.”
Sambo said he realised he was being targeted, so he called the police when he got to Mbombela and was directed to the organised crime unit's offices.
Police listened in when Banda called him asking for the rest of the money.
The three were arrested when Sambo handed over marked notes.
The trial was postponed to March 7.