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Durban - A security guard who stole almost R100 000 in pension money he was supposed to have been safeguarding has been convicted of theft – but he will be allowed to keep his firearm.
Bheki Armstrong Mkhize, 39, who lost his job at Fidelity after the incident in Chatsworth last year, was adamant, even after the Durban Regional Court found him guilty on Tuesday, that he was innocent. He said he could not show remorse for something he had not done.
Magistrate Trevor Levitt ordered Mkhize, of Hammarsdale, to pay a R5 000 fine or serve a year in prison.
He also handed down a two-year sentence, suspended for five years on condition that Mkhize did not commit the same offence in this period.
However, Levitt did not declare him unfit to possess a firearm, saying this would give him an opportunity to find another security job.
“Please don’t abuse this privilege,” he told Mkhize.
The court found that Mkhize had been part of a group of people who had stolen more than R97 000 from the pension payout point at the Moorton Hall in Chatsworth in August last year.
Mkhize was hired to watch over the pay point.
An employee of Cash Paymaster Services, the company contracted to conduct the pension payouts, had left the money in the vault at the pay point. Mkhize did not close the vault door, as the electronic locking mechanism did not work at the time.
The court found that Mkhize and the others hired to stand guard had stolen the money.
However, only he was charged.
One of the men believed to be involved in the theft had pointed out where the money could be found. It was recovered shortly afterwards.
During arguments for sentencing on Tuesday, Mkhize testified that he had completed Grade 11 and that the only training he had since received was for his security guard position.
While he said he was not fired after the incident, had not faced a disciplinary hearing and had not resigned, he was unemployed.
When the magistrate questioned him further on this, Mkhize said his employer had told him he was “untrustworthy” and could not continue working with him.
“I was moved to another position in Fidelity and still received a salary but it dropped. I was told to guard a road, then a school and I then went on a learnership. After that, I didn’t work there anymore,” he said, stating that his contract had expired and he was still waiting for another position to arise at the company.
Prosecutor Krishen Shah said theft was a prevalent and continuing offence. He said this was an abuse of trust as the money was for pensioners.
“Fortunately, it was recovered, but through no assistance from (Mkhize). The court found he did not act alone, but other people are not in the dock. He has not shown remorse nor has he taken the court into his confidence about what happened that day,” said Shah.
Levitt said it was a pity that the truth had not surfaced. He referred to one of the guards being dismissed and said Mkhize was downgraded and eventually forced out.
He said the role of the other guard would be looked into.
The magistrate agreed that Mkhize had been in a position of trust and had had an important job to guard the pension money.
“If an employer cannot trust his employee, who can he trust?”
The court took into account that the money was recovered almost in its entirety and that Mkhize was a first-time offender.