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It was “judgment day” recently for three members of a car hijacking syndicate whose victims included two clergymen who were robbed of their vehicle while “preaching the word of God”.

The day of reckoning for two of the gang members, Mzothuli Dlamini, 22, and Lungelo Dubuzane, 29, came last week at the Durban Regional Court, where they were convicted and sentenced.

Dubuzane claimed in court that he was taken on a drive on the day he was arrested and made to watch police officers eat Chicken Licken while he sat with his hands tied behind his back. He said the officers told him that they were “powering-up” for him, in reference to the alleged torture he later endured.

Another gang member, Mlamuli Mkhize, 27, was convicted and sentenced in August when he also appeared before magistrate Fariedha Mohamed in the same court.

Dlamini and Mkhize were arrested on November 5, 2017.

The pair attempted to make a Hollywood-style getaway in the Toyota Corolla they had stolen at gunpoint from Mozambican preachers Paz dos Santos and Elder Moore in KwaMakhutha that day. But they were arrested after they crashed into a police barricade set-up in KwaMashu, after driving into oncoming traffic and shooting at the officers.

Mkhize was found in possession of a police issued firearm. It emerged in court that the clergymen were ministering at a house in KwaMakhutha when they were held-up. Their cellphones and the keys to the Corolla were taken.

Magistrate Mohamed sentenced Mkhize to 12 years’ imprisonment for the four counts of armed robbery.

He also received five years’ imprisonment for unlawful possession of a firearm and three years for unlawful possession of ammunition.

Dlamini was handed a 10-year prison term on four counts of armed robbery.

While Dubuzane was not positively linked to the hijacking of the preachers, police believe he evaded arrest on the day because he drove a separate vehicle, the one that transported Mkhize and Dlamini to KwaMakhutha.

He was, however, arrested later that month in connection with another hijacking in Inanda.

Dubuzane testified that after a lengthy ride, he was tortured by Warrant Officer Bob Pillay and other policemen from the Provincial Task Team, before his detention. When police arrested Dubuzane, who was a freelance taxi driver, he was driving a Toyota Etios that was reported stolen during a hijacking Inanda in November 2017.

The owner of the vehicle, who was in the company of friends when he was hijacked at gunpoint, pointed out Dubuzane during a police ID parade.

The two arresting officers previously testified that they had followed Dubuzane for a kilometre before they instructed him to stop.

Dubuzane disputed this version and said that he had just parked the car when police approached him, and he couldn’t understand why the officers gave a “fabricated” story in court.

He said the car belonged to his long-time friend Musa, who had the car for three months at the time.

State prosecutor Kuveshni Pillay rejected Dubuzane’s claim that the car was Musa’s. “The complainant in the matter said the car was with a dealership in October 2017. How is it possible that Musa owned the car? Why didn’t you tell the police who arrested you about Musa? That’s because he doesn’t exist.”

Pillay also questioned why no charges were opened against the policemen who allegedly assaulted and tortured him.

“You (Dubuzane) were arrested in 2017. The reason you hadn’t pressed charges is that it didn’t happen, but you want the court’s sympathy,” said Pillay.

Magistrate Mohamed said the police officers gave clear and concise evidence whereas Dubuzane’s version was “riddled with inconsistencies” and the State had proved its case.

She handed Dubuzane a 15 year prison sentence.

Sunday Tribune