Five men who looted a cold storage facility in Chesterville, Durban during the July 2021 riots have been sentenced to direct imprisonment.
The five accused pleaded not guilty to theft, claiming that the R80,000 worth of meat found in their vehicle during the riots, belonged to someone else.
However, Durban Regional Court Magistrate Anand Maharaj rejected their version and found them guilty of theft in June.
In handing down sentences this week, Maharaj spoke of the devastating effects of the KwaZulu-Natal riots that crippled the economy and described these offences as serious.
The accused, Mduduzi Buthelezi, Sphelele Mazibuko, Mandla Ngcobo, Thobela John and Sabelo Shandu looted Ayoba Cold Storage in Harry Gwala Road.
They are aged between 19 and 57.
Buthelezi, Ngcobo and John were sentenced to 10 years direct imprisonment, while Mazibuko and Shandu received five years behind bars.
During the trial the court heard that four trucks with stock worth R2 million in each had also been burnt.
The meat had been imported from Brazil.
The owner, MZ Luthuli, in his evidence to the court led by State prosecutor Shenaaz Hoosen, became emotional as he spoke about the loss he suffered which amounted to R90 million.
In their version, the accused denied looting the cold storage and said during the riots they had given about nine people a lift and they had left the meat in the bakkie.
In aggravation of sentencing Hoosen argued that the July unrest left many businesses crippled.
She further argued that the accused showed no remorse for their actions and that a term of direct imprisonment was the only fitting sentence which was in the best interest of society.
In addition, the Asset Forfeiture Unit received an order in the Durban High Court to attach John’s vehicle, because it was used to commit the crime.