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Ex-guard’s appeal against life sentence for murder in cash-in-transit robbery dismissed

A former security guard will remain in prison serving a life sentence after a judge dismissed his appeal on the grounds that he showed no remorse. Picture Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

A former security guard will remain in prison serving a life sentence after a judge dismissed his appeal on the grounds that he showed no remorse. Picture Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

Published Mar 7, 2022

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Cape Town - The Western Cape High Court has dismissed an appeal from Zwelinkosi Tsolo, a former SBV security guard, who was convicted and sentenced in 2019 for murder following a cash-in-transit robbery.

Tsolo had approached the court after he was granted leave to appeal against his conviction and subsequent sentencing. He was found guilty in the Wynberg Regional Court for the murder of Onke Magoqoba, and the attempted murder of Klaus Johnson, Godwin Halan and Welcome Denisa.

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He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, 10 years for each of the three attempted murders and 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances for the theft of R487 000 in cash.

The incident took place at Nyanga Junction in 2009, where Tsolo, along with his accomplices, accosted Johnson and his team with firearms as they were delivering cash at the shopping centre.

Magoqoba had been carrying the cash through a small passage inside when they were attacked. Magoqoba was shot 16 times in his neck, left shoulder, chest, back, lower abdomen, right and left leg. Magoqoba died on the scene even though he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Johnson was shot in the neck. The bullet passed through his neck, hit the wall behind him and ricocheted on to his shoulder. Hala was hit in the left wrist by a stray bullet, while Denisa was hit in the toe, also by a stray bullet.

The grounds for Tsolo’s appeal was to determine whether Johnson had correctly identified him as the person who had shot him; whether his alibi defence was correctly rejected; if his confession was correctly ruled admissible and whether he was correctly convicted. He further took issue with the life term imposed by the magistrate, and noted that it was “shockingly inappropriate and unduly harsh”.

In his testimony, Johnson identified Tsolo as the perpetrator and said that he knew Tsolo well enough to know it was him. Johnson had also told the court that he waved at Tsolo before they were approached.

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He then saw Tsolo standing just metres away pointing a firearm directly at him. It was Johnson’s testimony that Tsolo shot him in the neck before he grabbed his two weapons.

However, Tsolo persisted in denying any involvement in the incident. He also denied ever possessing a firearm or being present at Nyanga Junction on that fateful day. It was his testimony that he was caring for his brother at the time. It also emerged that when the police searched his house, no money was found.

Judge Judith Cloete, in her judgment, said that Johnson’s evidence was enough to place Tsolo at the scene. She said it was highly unlikely that Johnson would have greeted a complete stranger. Also, that because Tsolo was previously employed for the same duties at the same centre, he would have had knowledge of how the guards would enter.

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If the trial court was correct in accepting Johnson’s identity evidence then it would be correct in rejecting Tsolo’s alibi, she said. She also agreed with the magistrate’s decision to admit Tsolo’s confession as evidence. She said there was no merit to the claim that the police officer who recorded the confession did not understand Tsolo, or what he was saying.

On Tsolo’s issue with the State not clarifying that the matter was to be dealt with as common purpose, she said it was clear in his confession, “that he was involved in the planning of the crimes along with others; he and six others were armed with firearms; he was the one who accosted Johnson and shot him; other gunshots were fired at the ‘group carrying money’ and that the spoils of the robbery were shared between him and his co-perpetrators”.

In relation to his sentence of life imprisonment, Judge Cloete said Tsolo showed no remorse for his actions.

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“He took advantage of his prior knowledge of the operations of his erstwhile employer for pure criminal gain. There is nothing which indicates that he has any realistic prospect of early or medium-term rehabilitation,” she said.

Judge Cloete supported by Judge Andre le Grange therefore dismissed Tsolo’s appeal. He remains in custody.

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