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Taxi driver handed 5-year prison term for looting during July unrest

The taxi driver sentenced for theft during the July 2021 unrest said he used his vehicle to transport people to the Mobeni business industrial area so that they could loot.

An inmate at a Joburg prison writes at his desk in his prison cell. File Picture: Itumeleng English

Published Jun 19, 2022

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DURBAN - A 24-year-old man was handed an effective 5-year sentence by the Durban Regional Court for theft in the Mobeni industrial area during the July 2021 unrest in KwaZulu-Natal.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) regional spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson-Kara, said Lungelo Nthenga pleaded guilty to three counts of theft.

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Ramkisson-Kara said in his plea, Nthenga said he was a taxi driver and that during the unrest he used his vehicle to transport people to the Mobeni business industrial area in South Coast Road so that they could loot.

He was arrested when his vehicle was stopped at a roadblock during a stop and search operation conducted by the police to deter looting conduct, she said.

“His vehicle was loaded with tinned fish, rice, as well as items from the surrounding warehouses that were looted,” she said.

Ramkisson-Kara said during the court proceedings, Regional Court prosecutor Kuveshni Pillay presented statistics from the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) which showed that the province lost R50 billion during the unrest period.

She said the unrest and looting also caused a loss of foreign investment and tourism.

“The NPA welcomes this outcome as it reaffirms the rule of law in our country,” said Ramkisson-Kara.

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Earlier this month, the Durban Regional Court sentenced Samkelo Mthembu, 31, to five years direct imprisonment, after he pleaded guilty to theft of a motor vehicle belonging to a business in Mobeni during the July unrest.

Ramkisson-Kara said Mthembu stole a Toyota Hino truck, valued at approximately R350 000, from a business.

“In his plea statement, Mthembu said he and his friend had come across the persons who had originally taken the vehicle from the premises and they were having difficulties driving the vehicle. He and his friend assisted them, and drove the truck, heading towards the Esikhawini area to avoid detection.

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“When they got to Esikhawini, the other occupants jumped off the truck and fled, leaving him in the truck. Since the truck was fitted with a tracking device, Mthembu was arrested while in the truck,” she said.

She said in aggravation of sentence, Regional Court prosecutor Vishalan Moodley, told the court that the offence was serious, particularly since it took place during the looting period, where there was a general sense of lawlessness.

In sentencing Mthembu, the court deemed him unfit to possess a firearm, she added.

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