Elderly hijack victims’ faith in the justice system restored
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An elderly couple’s faith in the country’s justice system was restored this week when the second suspect who hijacked them was sent to prison.
Suleman “Solly” Kathrada, 84, and his wife Kogilamba, 77, were assaulted, before the hijackers drove off in the couple’s Honda Brio, which was parked outside the David Landau Community Hall, in Asherville.
When the hijackers moved menacingly towards his elderly wife to grab their car keys, Kathrada, a Durban-based karate expert knew he had to protect her.
In spite of being in his 80’s, still recovering from a spinal operation, and relying on crutches to aid his balance, Suleman Kathrada’s combat instincts kicked in.
But his efforts came to nought when he was punched in the face and he fell to the ground during the September 2019 incident.
However, the Kathrada’s said their faith in the country’s justice system was restored when one of their assailant's received a 13-year prison sentence this week.
Sanele Makhubo Mtshali, 23, who pleaded not guilty to the robbery with aggravating circumstances charge he faced, was convicted and sentenced by magistrate Sophie Reddy at the Durban Regional Court.
This after, in August 2020, Khanyisani Mngadi had admitted to magistrate Fariedha Mohamed his involvement in the hijacking of the Kathradas.
Mngadi was imprisoned for eight years, of which two years were suspended for five years, provided he didn’t repeat the offence.
Vishalan Moodley prosecuted both matters, including that of the theft of the couple’s cell phone and R5 000.
Both Mngadi and Mtshali were arrested a day after the incident after the Kathrada’s car was seen in the Inanda area.
The vehicle was stopped and searched, and the car keys were found in Mtshali’s possession, while Mngadi had the couple’s mobile phone, which had a distinct tipex dot on a button.
Kogilamba made the tipex marking so that her husband could identify the “end call” button. The phone also had pictures from his 80th birthday party.
Their matters were separated when Mtshali maintained his plea of innocence.
“I am very happy with the court outcome. Especially since we had to make numerous trips to court at a time when the Covid-19 virus was rampant,” Kogilamba said.
She said that on the day of the incident, they were walking to the car from the hall where her husband ran a karate dojo (gym) since 1974.
Kathrada was lagging slightly behind when the hijackers approached Kogilamba, instructed her not to scream, to hand over the keys and indicated they had a gun.
“I knew that I had to comply and took out the keys,” she said.
As one of the hijackers rushed to grab the keys, Kathrada shouted: “Don’t touch my wife”, before lashing out with a crutch.
“My husband was assaulted and he fell to the ground. They struck my face with the butt of a gun. My teeth were damaged and my face was cut,” she said.
Although they were senior citizens and vulnerable, Kogilamba said the hijackers showed no respect or mercy.
However, the hijackers taking their car was not her biggest concern.
“I said to myself, oh God, do I have to go through the hassles of having my husband’s back fixed once again,” she said.
Kogilamba explained that Solly was still recovering after having had back surgery at the time. His recovery and getting back on his feet again became a struggle for her.
“Doctors warned he must never fall. Due to his age, they wouldn’t perform another operation on his back,” she said.
The attack was a huge setback as the functioning of his back had not improved.
“I still have trauma of my own. Whenever I’m out driving, I become nervous and wonder whether someone is following me.
“Therefore, we pursued this matter. We didn't want other elderly people to go through that trauma,” said.
Magistrate Reddy was impressed with the couple’s clear and concise recollection of happenings and was at odds with how Mtshali’s version changed a few times, especially when cross-examined by Moodley.
Mtshali essentially insisted he was not involved, and his alibi was that he was home with his mother on the day.
During the proceedings this week, Moodley suggested to Reddy that Mtshali’s mother, who was present, be called to testify and provide more clarity.
Reddy agreed the mother’s testimony would contribute towards achieving a just decision as she was his alibi.
When asked if her son was with her on the day of the incident, the mother said “no”.
The mother recalled that Mtshali had moved out of their home at the time because she continuously reprimanded him for his errant ways.