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Mbombela - Five men were convicted on Tuesday of taking part in a robbery in which a security guard was killed in Mpumalanga six years ago.
Victor Mathebula, 31, Mahlatse Gian Matsane, 30, Beanen Mpho Matsane, 31, Obbey Seerane, 25, and Socha Sunday Mokoena, 25, pleaded not guilty in the Nelspruit Circuit of the High Court in Pretoria, a Sapa correspondent reported.
The five were arrested separately in connection with attacks on two petrol stations in Thulamahashe, Bushbuckridge, on December 6 and 7, 2007
Charges against a sixth suspect, Noel Mashele, 26, were withdrawn because of a lack of evidence.
Mathebula told the court he was in a six-man gang which arrived at a shop at a Shell garage in Thulamahashe at 10.30pm on December 6.
He testified that one of them used an iron bar to break open the door to the shop, where they took cash from the tills.
They arrived at a filling station in Hluvukani village, outside Thulamahashe, with the intention of robbing it, at 1.15am on December 7.
On finding workers asleep, they woke them up pretending they wanted to buy petrol and airtime, but robbed them of their belongings including cellphones, money, and a firearm.
Mathebula told the court that Matsane shot the security guard and that Mokoena stabbed a woman with a knife.
Testifying in mitigation of sentence, Mathebula said he had not participated in the robberies, but had been only a passenger in the gang's car.
“I was only involved in the part of buying of petrol at one of the garages. I never stabbed or shot anyone. I am remorseful of what happened and have apologised to the victims and the deceased's family,” he said in an affidavit read to the court by his lawyer.
However, his submission was rejected by Judge Ronel Tolmay.
“Mathebula was there voluntarily and he was not forced. The buying of the petrol was meant to cover suspicion of their intention to rob. He was also part of the group and he is guilty as charged with the rest,” she said.
Prosecutor JJ Jacobs asked the court to impose the prescribed sentence on all five, because of the seriousness of the offence and because some of them had previous convictions dating back to 2001.
Tolmay said that although the murder was not premeditated, what remained was that a man was killed and a woman was stabbed.
“Although Mahlatse admitted through his defence that he made a mess by killing the security guard, that was not actually the plan. There was also no reason for stabbing the other victim,” Tolmay said.
The matter was postponed to Wednesday for sentencing.