080511 Khumbulani Sibanda, one of south africa's four most wanted men was also arrested. 999 Picture: Ziphozonke Lushaba

Pretoria - Jail escapee Khumbulani Sibanda on Tuesday asked the High Court in Pretoria to be merciful when sentencing him.

Sibanda was the first to take the witness stand as the court heard arguments in mitigation and aggravation of sentence relating to a raft of charges, including armed robbery, brought against him and co-accused Bongani Moyo.

The pair have spent close to two years in jail, serving time for other robberies. Moyo sat in the dock listening attentively as Sibanda was first led by advocate Donald Somo, and later questioned by prosecutor Abe Koalepe.

In a plea bargain the Zimbabwean duo on Monday pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering, robbery with aggravating circumstances, possession of unlicensed firearms, and escaping from custody. They robbed several banks in Gauteng and the North West in 2011, after escaping from Boksburg prison in March that year.

Somo asked Sibanda to explain to the court what he would say to his victims, if he got the opportunity to meet them.

“Do you realise that your victims were traumatised? It was in your statement (read to the court on Monday) that some got very scared at the sight of a firearm. If you meet them, what would you say?”

Sibanda responded: “I have realised that people were so scared by the firearms. I had told myself that I wasn’t going to injure anyone. Should it happen that I see her, (Michelle Jacobs, a manager at an FNB Pretoria branch) I would apologise”.

He said he had been influenced by friends to lead a life of crime. He said he needed the money for his children, mother, and siblings.

Sibanda told the court he arrived in South Africa for the first time in 2003. He said he was a widower with three children from two different mothers.

Koalepe said police could not find any evidence of Sibanda’s legal stay in South Africa. Sibanda said he had applied for asylum in 2006, but that the application document got lost.

He told the court that on the day he was arrested, police officers searched his room and stole a suit, jackets and R20 000. He said the money was his share of what they stole during the robberies.

Judge Natvarlal Ranchod told Sibanda to concentrate on issues relevant to his sentencing.

On Monday, the trial of Sibanda and Moyo was separated from that of their co-accused, Leon Ncube and Thabani Sibanda.

While Khumbulani and Moyo have entered a plea bargain, Ncube and Thabani Sibanda would stand trial on August 12. - Sapa