HIGHVELD – Five men, John Mokele (40), Sfiso Mbele (45), Mandla Panyeko (44), Mpumelelo Biyana (41), and Siphiwe Mbani (40) were sentenced to 60 years imprisonment each at the Palm Ridge High Court on Wednesday, 31 October.
The men were sentenced on 44 counts ranging from murder, house robberies, truck and car hijackings, the possession of illegal firearms and assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
One of the gang members, Siphiwe Ngcobo (37), died during the eight-year trial period and Mbani escaped but was sentenced in his absence.
He was however re-arrested and found with four illegal firearms and ammunition in his possession.
This case is still under investigation.
The syndicate was responsible for 12 armed robberies in Kinross, Springs and Devon and some of the members had warrants of arrest issued against them more than 10 years ago.
According to Capt Dineo Lucy Sekgotodi, spokesman of the Mpumalanga Hawks, 11 suspects went on a violent crime spree in September 2010 and robbed three houses in
Kinross and stole jewellery, cash and a firearm.
The victims were tied up and assaulted before the armed gang escaped with the stolen goods.
The three armed robberies were committed in less than an hour.
The victims of the last house managed to contact the Devon Police and gave them a description of the suspects including details of the getaway vehicles.
The police mobilised the Secunda Hawks Serious Organised Crime team, members of Kinross Police and Leandra Police, as well as the Ekurhuleni Springs Metro Police and the heavily armed gang, was confronted.
A shootout ensued between the gang and the police and five gang members died while the other six managed to escape and hijacked a truck and shot the driver who died of his injuries later.
The police chased and arrested them and confiscated the firearms including R5 rifles, handguns and stolen items.
Maj. -Gen. Ntombizodwa Mokoena, Head of the Mpumalanga Provincial Hawks, applauded the conviction of the criminal gang and said he wants to commend the tremendous cooperative work done by the integrated team, the investigative officer who worked under strenuous conditions after receiving countless death threats,
the NPA, all the witnesses and the community.
“I hope the sentencing will bring some needed relief and rest easier knowing that these individuals will not be around to break into more houses anytime soon since these criminals are going to spend a long time in prison,” said Maj.-Gen. Mokoena.